By Karen Morris,
Dr. Dre has lost his trademark battle against Dr. Drai. The former is a well known rapper and producer whose real name is Andre Young. He has created CDs, MP3 files, albums, and many types of public performances. He is also known for his headphone company, Beats by Dre, which produces listening devices used by, among others, the rich and famous. In addition to his own music, he is credited with discovering rap legends such as 50 Cent, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg.
Dr. Drai is the stage name for a Pennsylvania gynecologist and media personality whose real name is Draion M. Burch. He hosts sex education classes for adults and teens at live presentations and on videos and podcasts. He also writes books on related topics. Among his presentations is a series of webinars titled “What Your Mama Didn’t Tell You About Making Babies.”
The rapper challenged the real doc when the latter sought to register “Dr. Drai” as a trademark. The singer and entrepreneur argued that the similarity of the names could cause customer confusion, the test for trademark infringement. Dre asserted that since the physician’s media appearances and speaking events occur in a “non-medical setting,” they constitute entertainment which is the primary arena in which the rapper uses his stage name.
The real doctor claimed that people would not be misled or confused because Dr. Dre “is not qualified to provide any type of medical services or sell products specifically in the medical or healthcare industry,” endeavors Dr. Drai pursues.
The case was heard before a panel of the Trial and Appeal Board of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A party seeking to protect a trademark and discourage others from using it is well-advised to register the mark on a national registry maintained by the USPTO. Pursuant to the Lanham Act, which is the federal statute that governs trademarks, anyone who may be injured by a proposed registration of a trademark can challenge the registration. Potential challengers are made aware of proposed new marks via a publication called the Official Gazette, published weekly by the USPTO and available online.
When a challenge is filed, it is first reviewed by a USPTO trademark attorney who makes an initial determination concerning whether the mark should be registered. That decision can be appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a tribunal within the USPTO that holds hearings and decides, among other matters, cases involving challenges to registration. Following a hearing, the board can reject the mark and refuse to register it, register the mark despite the objection, or register the mark but impose conditions or restrictions on the mark’s use designed to prevent consumer confusion.
In the rapper/physician case, the panel ruled that consumer confusion was unlikely given that Dr. Drai’s appearances are “specifically limited to osteopathic medicine, obstetrics and gynecology,” a very different product line from that of the rapper.
The rapper also argued that the physician intended to “trade on the goodwill generated by” Dr, Dre’s already famous name. Scoffing at this, the real doctor said more likely the association with the rapper’s brand would harm his practice, not help it. Dr. Drai noted that the rapper is known for “misogyny and homophobic
comments,” citing some of Dre’s lyrics and songs. Said the doctor, “being an OB-GYN, I cannot be associated with anyone that has any kind of misogynistic speech because it’s a bad reflection on me as a doctor.”
Do you agree that Dr. Drai’s trademark would not cause confusion with Dr. Dre’s? Why or why not?
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