Britney Spears Sued in $10 Million Trademark Infringement Action in Connection with Her "In The Zone" CD and Related Concert Activities

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Britney Spears Sued in $10 Million Trademark Infringement Action in Connection With Her "In The Zone" CD And Related Concert Activities

Lite Breeze Inc., a San Diego company, has sued Britney Spears, along with three other defendants, in United States District Court for the Southern District of California for 10 million dollars. Lite Breeze alleges that Ms. Spears has infringed its United States Trademark, IN THE ZONE, in connection with her most recent CD, "In The Zone". See Lite Breeze Inc. v. Spears, Clear Channel Entertainment Television Holdings, Inc., Signatures Network, Inc. and Zomba Recording Corp., dba Jive Records, Case No. 04-CV-0326 DMS (JFS) (S.D. Cal. Feb. 17, 2004).

The lawsuit was filed in February, 2004; however Ms. Spears did not accept service of the legal papers until May, 2004. Although Lite Breeze has been in communication with Ms. Spears' attorney since February, Ms. Spears refused to give her attorney the authority to accept service of the legal papers. Ms. Spears avoided numerous attempts to serve her the legal papers over the past several months. Finally, Ms. Spears agreed to accept service of the papers if Lite Breeze agreed to postpone the taking of her deposition for six months. Ms. Spears and the other defendants must file their answers to the allegations by June 14, 2004.

Since receiving a cease and desist letter from Lite Breeze requesting that Ms. 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 Ms. 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, Inc. is a San Diego based corporation specializing in athletic clothing and sporting team uniforms throughout the United States under its brand name IN THE ZONE. Additionally, Lite Breeze promotes musical and live sporting event entertainment using its IN THE ZONE trademark. Lite Breeze alleges that Ms. Spears’ unauthorized use of its trademark is causing confusion in the marketplace and has harmed its trademark.

Rodd Garner, President of Lite Breeze, said "We have spent over 12 years building name recognition and brand loyalty with the IN THE ZONE and THE ZONE trademark. 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.'" See Jon Pareles, Rolling Stone, Dec. 11, 2003.

Mr. Garner stated 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 to Mr. Garner who has made clear that the image presented by Ms. 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.

Ms. 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, Ms. Spears stated that downloading music from the Internet is the same as going into a CD store and stealing the CD. See Spears Warns Against Piracy, BBC, Sept. 26, 2002.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Spears is accused of stealing the intellectual property, i.e. the trademark, of Lite Breeze. If Lite Breeze is successful in its lawsuit, Ms. 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 Ms. 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 Ms. Spears most recent concert tour has sales figures of more the $30 million. Ms. Spears is beginning the second leg of her U.S. concert tour on June 22, 2004 in Hartford, Connecticut. Accordingly, the damages sought in the lawsuit may be much higher than Lite Breeze originally estimated.

Press release issued by Lite Breeze Inc., San Diego, California, June 7, 2004.

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Kathleen Walker
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