The Newsboys, a Christian rock music group, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the New Boyz rap duo, claiming that despite the contrasts in musical styles and lyrics, the similarity in the bands’ names will cause confusion among its fans. Sounds legit, right?
Actually, as ill-advised as this lawsuit may seem at first, the Newsboys may have a valid concern. To their credit, they registered “Newsboys” as a trademark in 1994 and have used the name continuously since then. According to the complaint, the Newsboys have had 28 number-one singles and produced four albums since 2008. One of their earlier albums was entitled, “Boys will be Boyz.”
In 2011, Warner Brothers began promoting New Boyz. In contrast to the wholesome lyrics favored by the Newsboys on tracks such as “He Reigns” and “In Christ Alone,” the New Boyz favor a raunchier style, rapping lyrics like “You’re a jerk! Jerk Jerk Jerk!” and “Tell all the homies she got bunz, bunz, bunz.”
To recover on their trademark infringement claim, the Newsboys will need to prove that they own a protectible mark, that New Boyz used the mark or a substantially similar derivation of the name, that the name was used in commerce in connection with the sale or advertising of New Boyz music, and that consumer confusion is likely to result. Their challenge is going to be proving their claim that listeners will be confused.
The Newsboys assert that their fans have actually been confused. “Plaintiff has already documented several instances of actual confusion among its customers, prospective customers and other outside observers who mistakenly assume a connection” between Newsboys and New Boyz, they write. If they can prove that in court, the Newsboys may be entitled to relief under the trademark laws.