SPIN VS. SPiN
The edgy Philadelphia based, Jägermeister sponsored pop rock band SPiN wrapped 2007 with the exciting news that “Home”—the debut single from their self-titled EP helmed by Grammy winning producer/engineer David Ivory—had hit the Top 20 on FMQB’s AC40 chart (now #11 on chart). After several years of major East Coast success that included over 100 shows a year, the hardworking group was finally breaking through on a national level.
The well-known national music monthly Spin magazine took notice—but not in the way the four musicians would have hoped. On January 3, the band received a letter from the attorney for the publication’s parent company Spin Media, LLC, claiming that the name “SPiN” constitutes trademark infringement “of the famous and valuable” SPIN brand.
The letter claims that since the band SPiN is using the “SPIN mark” for music, there is a “strong likelihood of consumer confusion”; it says, “your clients’ unauthorized use of the SPIN mark is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception as to an affiliation, connection or association with Spin Media and its SPIN mark, and as to the origin, sponsorship or approval of your clients’ goods and services.”
The letter goes on to threaten that the magazine will pursue “civil remedies to the fullest extent of the federal and state law” unless SPiN immediately ceases to use the name!
SPiN the band’s simple response: “Ridiculous!”
No matter how you spin the story, the 23-year-old publication is hardly living up to its philosophy of being “Music For Life.” In fact, in what’s shaping up to be a classic David vs. Goliath battle, they’re trying to suck the life and career momentum out of SPiN just when lead singer Eric Rothenheber, keyboardist and vocalist Jim Vacca, guitarist Hank Cieplinski and drummer Lou Chudnofsky are achieving the kind of success every indie artist aspires to.
Vacca says the band has worked too hard to build its name and reputation over the last few years to give into this ludicrous demand. Eager to fight the media company, SPiN is currently exploring its legal options.
“Seriously, how is our use of the name ‘spin’ likely to cause confusion for anyone?” he adds. “You see a band play a show, is that a magazine performing onstage? I’m confused, am I reading a magazine or listening to a rock band on my ipod? C’mon! We’re not calling ourselves Spin magazine or writing articles about music, and we’re not music related media. We’re just a rock band out here struggling to get our music career going. We finally caused a little ripple and got a small taste of success, and now this? We’re not trying to hurt anyone or steal anyone’s “famous and valuable” name. We’re currently figuring out just how to fight this accusation without going futhur into debt in legal expenses.”
Cieplinski also wonders what happened years ago, when the situation was reversed, and Rolling Stone magazine shared its name with a famous band and the title of a Bob Dylan song. “We’ll have to look into the legal precedents,” he says. It would be nice if magazines like Spin would be supportive of hard working bands like ours rather than try to stifle what we’re doing as soon as we start to catch a glimpse of success.”
Ironically, the part of SPiN’s history that the guys are least likey to mention may play the most important part in proving that its name wasn’t deliberately lifted from the title of the magazine. Before SPiN was SPiN, and the guys were making their living—and funding the recording of original material--as a cover band, the group was known in Philadelphia as “Spin The Bottle.” That name was deemed too corny to keep once they developed their original sound, but so many people knew them as “Spin The Bottle” that they decided to simply shorten the name rather than change it completely.
“No matter what happens, we’re going to keep plugging away with continued touring to support the radio release and heading back in the studio in 2008,” says Rothenheber. “We’re hoping this situation doesn’t take too much time away from our primary goal, which is making music. Chudnofsky adds, “maybe they’ll back off once they realize that as of right now, there’s exactly $7.28 in our bank account!”
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