September 30, 2018

Beyoncé v. Feyonce — If Enough Consumers Get the Joke, There May not be a Likelihood of Confusion

By Bryan K. Wheelock, Principal

In Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter v. Feyonce, Inc., [16-CV-2532 (AJN)] (September 30, 2018) the Southern District of New York denied summary judgment to plaintiff, the entertainer Beyoncé, against defendants for the sale of merchandise using the brand name “Feyonce” (rhymes with fiance), which defendants market to the engaged to be married.

There was no dispute that in marketing to fiance purchasers, defendants chose the formation “FEYONCE” in order to capitalize off of the exceedingly famous BEYONCE mark. However, the district said that alone does not establish a likelihood of confusion. The critical question was whether a rational consumer would mistakenly believe FEYONCE products are sponsored by or affiliated with BEYONCE products.

The court said: “A rational jury might or might not conclude that the pun here is sufficient to dispel any confusion among the purchasing public. Thus, there is a genuine dispute of material fact that requires denial of the motion for summary judgment.”

Intent to capitalize on fame is not enough, if enough rational consumers get the pun there may not be a likelihood of confusion.