Lite Breeze Inc., a San Diego company specializing in athletic clothing and sporting team uniforms throughout the United States under its brand name In The Zone, has sued Britney Spears, Clear Channel Entertainment Television Holdings, Signatures Network Inc and Zomba Recording Corp., in United States District Court for the Southern District of California for $10 million. Lite Breeze alleges that Spears has infringed its United States Trademark, In The Zone, in connection with her most recent CD, "In The Zone."
The lawsuit was filed in February, 2004; however Spears did not accept service of the legal papers until May. Although Lite Breeze has been in communication with Spears' attorney since February, Spears refused to give her attorney the authority to accept service of the legal papers. Finally, Spears agreed to accept service of the papers if Lite Breeze agreed to postpone the taking of her deposition for six months. Spears and the other defendants must file their answers to the allegations by June 14.
Since receiving a cease and desist letter from Lite Breeze requesting that Spears and the other defendants stop using its In The Zone trademark, the Spears camp has allegedly pulled from sale all t-shirts using the In The Zone trademark. Additionally, Lite Breeze suspects that the name of Spears' current worldwide concert tour was changed from "Britney Spears In The Zone 2004 Tour" to "The Onyx Hotel Tour" after the defendants discovered Lite Breeze's trademark.
Lite Breeze also promotes musical and live sporting event entertainment using its In The Zone trademark. Lite Breeze alleges that Spears' unauthorized use of its trademark is causing confusion in the marketplace and has harmed its trademark.
"We have spent over 12 years building name recognition and brand loyalty with the In The Zone and In The Zone," says Rodd Garner president of Lite Breeze. "In The Zone is as wholesome and All-American as hotdogs and apple pie. We are associated with sporting and musical events throughout the country. By releasing her CD entitled "In The Zone" and its promotional tour, now entitled "The Oynx Hotel Tour", Ms. Spears has taken Lite Breeze's brand and equated it with what Rolling Stone Magazine has stated 'offers strip-club, 1-900 sex, accommodating and hollow.'"
Garner states that, "the public is likely to be confused about the origin of goods associated with the In The Zone trademark. Either the public will believe that Lite Breeze has licensed Ms. Spears' use of the trademark or the public will believe the opposite – that Ms. Spears owns the rights to In The Zone and that Lite Breeze has received a license from Ms. Spears. Either option is unacceptable." Garner has made clear that the image presented by Spears in connection with her unauthorized use of trademark is aimed at the same demographic as In The Zone's customers and her use of the mark does not represent the values, morals and ethics of In The Zone and Lite Breeze.
Lite Breeze contends that Spears' unauthorized use of the trademark is in direct contradiction to her
2002 public service announcements warning people against music piracy and theft of intellectual property. In those announcements, Spears stated that downloading music from the Internet is the same as going into a CD store and stealing the CD.
In the lawsuit, Spears is accused of stealing the intellectual property, i.e. the trademark, of Lite Breeze. If Lite Breeze is successful in its lawsuit, Spears and the other defendants could be ordered to turn over all profits earned for Spears' In The Zone CD, the related tour and merchandising, and all damages to Lite Breeze.
Additionally, the defendants may be required to pay three times any judgment awarded if the Court determines that Spears' use of the In The Zone trademark was willful. When Lite Breeze filed the lawsuit, it estimated that damages would be $10 million. Since that time, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, Signatures Network, has publicly stated that the first leg of . Spears most recent concert tour has sales figures of more the $30 million. Spears was supposed beginning the second leg of her U.S. concert tour on June 22 in Hartford, CT. has been cancelled due a leg injury. Accordingly, the damages sought in the lawsuit may be much higher than Lite Breeze originally estimated. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen