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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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‘The Platters’ Trademark Suits Keep Spinning

LAS VEGAS (CN) - The last surviving member of The Platters claims in court that a promoter is allowing singing groups to use the band's name without permission.

Herb Reed sued Florida Entertainment Management and its CEO Larry Marshak, in Clark County Court. The lawsuit is the latest show in decades-long court battles to protect the name of the group, whose best-known hits were "Only You" and "The Great Pretender."

In 1956, Buck Ram assumed the rights of The Platters under a company called Five Platters Inc., Reed says in his complaint.

Reed says he discontinued his relationship with Ram in 1969, but continued performing under the name. Meanwhile, Ram and his secretary created a new group called "The Buck Ram Platters," the complaint states.

In 1974, after a former original member of the group sued, a California Superior Court ruled against Five Platters Inc., (FPI) finding the 1956 assignment of The Platters mark to be invalid and that FPI did not acquire rights to the mark, on the grounds "that an unequal bargaining position existed between Ram and the other members, and that the new corporation was a sham used by Ram to obtain 'The Platters' name," according to Reed's new complaint.

The court also found that "FPI did not include any of the artists who made the name 'The Platters' famous, and that FPI intentionally misled the public into believing that its group was the original Platters," according to Reed's complaint.

FPI, however, continued to assert rights to the mark, and in 1973,wrongfully registered "The Platters" with the United States Patent and Trademark office, Reed claims.

FPI then sued Reed in Florida in 1984, but he says now that "[d]ue to the exorbitant costs of litigation, which were causing Reed great financial hardship, Reed entered into a stipulation in 1987 with FPI agreeing that he could perform under the name 'Herb Reed and The Platters' or some combination of those terms, but that he would not appear solely as 'The Platters.'"

Reed says the stipulation did not address the parties' rights to the name, but "left open that issue of ownership by agreeing that if a court determined that 'Five Platters, Inc., has no right in the name 'The Platters,' then nothing in [the stipulation] shall be construed to limit Herbert Reed's right in the name 'The Platters.'"

FPI's registration of the name was canceled in 1989, and a Federal Court in California ruled that Bennett had filed a false affidavit with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, submitted a false trademark application and tried to mislead the public in connection with the name, Reed's complaint states.

He claims that that court also held that the 1974 decision prevented FPI from further challenging one of the original members' use of the name.

In 1996, FPI and defendant Larry Marshak sued Reed in New York, trying to block him from using the name, and claiming Marshak owned the rights to the mark. The court ruled that that Reed was bound by the terms of the 1987 stipulation and that FPI had no rights in the mark, according to the new complaint.

FPI then sued one of its former employees, Monroe Powell, in 1998, claiming his use of the mark The Platters violated its rights in the name. The 9th Circuit ruled in 2001 that FPI used the name with the "intention of misleading the public into believing that FPI's group was the original group," Reed's lawsuit states.

"The Court ruled that FPI could not assert any common law rights to the mark The Platters based on prior use, except for use that was not false or misleading," according to the complaint.

Sometime after declaring bankruptcy in November 2001, Marshak claimed he had acquired the rights in the name from FPI through transfers from various other companies, the lawsuit states.

Reed registered the name "Herb Reed and the Platters" in 2003 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and transferred it to his company, plaintiff Herb Reed Enterprises Inc.

In 2010, he sued Jean Bennett, FPI and Personality Productions Inc. for trademark infringement in Nevada Federal court, and a default judgment was ordered.

The court ruled that "defendants Five Platters Inc. and Personality Productions have never used the mark 'The Platters' in a manner that is not false and misleading and thus never acquired common law rights to the mark and cannot assert that they have," the lawsuit states.

The court granted Reed's motion for partial summary judgment against Bennett, and a final judgment was entered Oct. 4, 2011.

In December that year, Reed d another lawsuit against Monroe Powell, claiming Powell had wrongfully used the Platters' name. Reed claims the court blocked Powell from using the name.

"Because it has been determined that FPI, PPI or Bennett, and any one taking through them never had rights in the mark The Platters, defendants never acquired legitimate right in the mark The Platters regardless of their claims that those rights were transferred to them by FPI, PPI or Jean Bennett," according to the complaint.

Despite having never been members of the original group and never acquiring legitimate rights to the name, defendants "nonetheless have used, and continue to use, the mark The Platters to promote vocal groups across the United States, including a group that performs at the Crown Theater in the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.," the lawsuit states.

Reed wants the defendants enjoined from using The Platters marks, and damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designations of origin and dilution.

He is represented by John L. Krieger with Lewis and Roca.

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