By LaTeigra Cahill
There’s no way to overstate the strong aversion toward mainstream everything in San Francisco. It’s also not a stretch to say that in the age of file sharing disputes, enforcing intellectual property rights can create the impression that an artist has crossed over from being independent to being a “sellout.”
When I heard that Violet Blue, the undeniably hip, fetish model/sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, filed a highly publicized law suit against mainstream porn actress Violet Blue (now known as No Name Jane) alleging trademark infringement, trademark dilution, violation of a CA right of publicity statue, and unfair competition, I was intrigued not only by the legal ramifications of a personal name trademark, but also with how Violet Blue’s “indie” reputation would be affected.
Some Facts from the Opinion:
- Violet Blue (the writer) first used the pen name in an online article in 1999; No Name Jane first used the name as a stage name in 2000.
- No Name Jane has appeared in hundreds of adult films over the years under the name “Violet Blue”.
- Violet Blue legally changed her name to Violet Blue, registered her name as a trademark in early 2008, and promptly filed suit.
- The Northern District court granted Violet Blue’s motion for a preliminary injunction, ruling that she had a valid, defendable trademark. (However, the court was not convinced Blue would succeed on the merits of her trademark dilution claim because the Federal Trademark Dilution Act requires that her trademark be famous prior to the time No Name Jane began using it.) (Opinion)
So why would a progressive, sex positive writer be so enraged that an adult star used the same name? Was it simply the next part of a ridiculous counter culture vs. mainstream war? If so, wouldn’t a trademark dispute put Violet’s “cool” at risk? On Violet Blue’s blog, she asserted her disgust in seeing her name on porn box covers like “Planet of the Gapes” and “White Trash Whore #22” and reading No Name Jane’s interviews (which, Violet characterized as “small minded” and “ignorant”).
What’s most interesting though is that Violet Blue, whom I have a hard time believing has a ton of celebrity status outside of The Bay Area, truly seemed to believe that No Name Jane was using her name on purpose to capitalize off of her fame as a blogger/writer:
“I mean, look at all the trouble and confusion poor Tyra BanXXX goes through, having her name diluted by some model with a TV show. And Marey Carey — she’s just trying to run for governor and get some new teeth and better tits, and some singer has to come along and ride her coattails to fame.” (Blog Post)
The drama got worse when Boing Boing, a popular tech site with publicly radical views on IP reform, risked a serious censorship issue with their fans when they unpublished all of Blue’s material from their site for undisclosed reasons, stating only that, “Violet behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her.” Many commentators on the post felt the unpublishing had to do with the No Name Jane law suit.
I find it unfortunate that many artists have to make tough decisions between protecting their hard work versus maintaining their ”scene cred” in the face of the public’s negative perception of IP laws – largely caused by overreaching mega corporations. In the end, Violet Blue won her trademark dispute but she gained more critics than fans, and she took far more of a hit to her cred than she bargained for.
LaTeigra (real name, not yet a trademark) is a law student at University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. LaTeigra’s main legal interests are free speech rights, anti-censorship issues, IP, art and politics. LaTeigra is the Co-Chair/Co-Founder of Hastings Advocates for the Arts, a student organization that promotes freedom of self expression through integrating art into law school culture.