(CN) – The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baley Circus claims in court a new song and related tour by rock performer Kid Rock infringes on the circus’ iconic “Greatest Show on Earth” slogan.
In a federal lawsuit filed Dec. 22 in Tampa, Florida, Ringling Bros. and its parent company, Feld Entertainment, claim Robert James Ritchie aka “Kid Rock” and the Live Nation Entertainment violated trademark and engaged unfair competition under state and federal laws.
Ringling Bros. says the singer’s use of “Greatest Show on Earth” unfairly tarnishes the circus’ family-friend brand, citing Kid Rock’s vulgar language and barely-dressed dancers performing onstage.
“A live performance of Kid Rock is antithetical to the family-friendly reputation of the circus and the trademarks,” the complaint states.
In addition, Ringling says, many of the concerts will be at the same venues used previously by the circus, further blurring the distinction of the “Greatest Show on Earth” trademark.
Earlier this year, Ringling Bros. ended live performances after a 145-year history. The company still sells merchandise on its website and licenses the circus brand.
The attorney who filed the lawsuit, A. Brian Albritton of Tampa-based Phelps Dunbar, could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday. But in a statement released on Friday, Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, called the Ringling Bros. trademark “a trusted and iconic brand of family-friendly entertainment.”
“‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ continues to live on and will do so well into the future,” he said. “We have no intention of surrendering the trademark or allowing it to be tarnished.”
Representatives for Kid Rock and Live Nation could not be immediately reached for comment.
In a response to Ringling’s cease and desist requests this fall, Kid Rock’s attorney Seth Miller sent the attorneys a letter claiming “The Greatest Show on Earth” song and related tour employ common words and do not mislead people.
“There is nothing in the song or the video that remotely suggests any connection to or affiliation with Ringling Bros. or that could possibly create any consumer confusion as to source of goods or any endorsement by your client,” wrote Miller of the Los Angeles-based Kings, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano firm.
In the letter, Miller also pointed to Ringling’s past court losses over the phrase, including a bar which used a “The Greatest Bar on Earth” slogan.
On Tuesday, Ringling Bros. attorneys filed a motion for injunction on the tour’s use of the phrase in promotional materials, advertisements and a YouTube video.
“Throughout its history, Ringling Bros. has established an overarching image: wholesome, family-friendly entertainment, which is invaluable to its business,” the motion states. “Defendants’ use of Ringling Bros.’ famous mark in connection with Kid Rock’s notorious performances – laced with F-bombs and sexual innuendo – tarnishes this family-oriented image and dilutes the mark. A narrow, limited preliminary injunction is essential to restore the status quo that existed prior to defendants’ unauthorized commercial use of Ringling Bros.’ mark.”
The complaint and motion for injunction also allege representatives of Kid Rock contacted Ringling Bros. to hire stilt walkers and acrobats for the concerts, which purportedly shows the singer’s desire for a circus-themed event.
In 1998, Kid Rock burst on the burgeoning rap-rock scene with the singles “Bawitdaba” and “Cowboy.” Since then, the five-time Grammy nominated singer has sold over 26 million records worldwide. In addition to his musical success, Kid Rock has also made headlines in the political world by publicly supporting Donald Trump for president and a media stunt announcing a bid for the U.S. Senate. Protesters have shown up to Kid Rock’s recent concert performances, criticizing his stances on social welfare and the Confederate flag.