Two “twisted sisters,” Sandra Russell and Nancy Hansen, operate Twisted Sisters Coffee Shop in Mission, Kansas. They were shocked to receive a letter from a lawyer representing John French, the founding member of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. The letter alleged that the sisters infringed on French’s trademark because their use of “Twisted Sisters” was confusingly similar to “Twisted Sister” under the 8 factor trademark infringement test.
The sisters opened their coffee shop in August of 2012 with the name “Twisted Sisters” because they are sisters and their brother had been calling them “twisted” since the 1960s. However, the sisters are likely going to have to change the name of their coffee shop. Their only alternative would be to challenge the claim in court.
French addressed criticism of filing trademark infringement claims against small parties, such as the Twisted Sisters Coffee Shop. In his previous trademark infringement cases, French has been able to prove that prior to the band’s formation in 1973, there were no recorded uses of the juxtaposition of “twisted” and “sister.” In fact, French claims that he chose the name “Twisted Sister” after receiving advice from his lawyer about potential exposure to trademark infringement. Previous band names that he had considered were likely to expose him to the possibility of infringing on another person’s trademark, so he settled on “Twisted Sister.”
French claims that he is seeking to enforce his trademark equally between small and large parties. He has successfully defended his trademark against large parties, such as Six Flags, Urban Decay, and Harley-Davidson. He has also successfully defended his trademark against smaller parties, such as Twisted Sister Bakery in Chicago and Twisted Sister Pizza in Massachusetts. French wants to avoid a position where failure to enforce his trademark against a small party could come back to haunt him in an infringement claim against a large party.
Interestingly, French is not only asking the sisters to change the name of their coffee shop but also for them to transfer their domain name of twistersistercoffeeshop.com and all social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) over to him. Ownership of these online entities could constitute cybersquatting, which could cost the sisters up to $100,000.
If the sisters had hired an experienced trademark lawyer, they could have learned that their business’s name exposed them to the possibility of trademark infringement and cybersquatting. An experienced trademark lawyer could have also instructed them on the importance of obtaining trademark clearance to protect their brand.
Don’t expose yourself to the risk of trademark infringement anymore! Contact the experienced trademark lawyers at Revision Legal, so you can reap the benefits of trademark registration and avoid frustrating lawsuits.