‘One Love’ trademark case will be heard in La. court

The trademark dispute between the estate of the late Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley and Raising Cane’s will be waged in Louisiana, not Massachusetts, a federal judge in the latter state has decided.

Marley’s widow and children filed a lawsuit Dec. 6 in federal District Court in Massachusetts over the Baton Rouge fried chicken finger chain’s use of the slogan “One Love,” the title of one of the reggae icon’s biggest hits.

Attorneys for Cane’s filed a motion Jan. 14, asking U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns to transfer the case from the District of Massachusetts to the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. They said Cane’s has only one restaurant on the East Coast; it’s the only one north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

“There is no reasonable basis for adjudicating this case in Massachusetts because neither the parties nor the issues have a connection with” the District of Massachusetts, attorneys representing Cane’s argued to Stearns in their motion.

Attorneys for Marley’s estate said in their Jan. 24 opposition that the Cane’s East Coast eatery is in Boston and said the Massachusetts district is the closest judicial district to many of the plaintiff’s primary witnesses and the location of its evidence.

“Simply stated, all of the arguments advanced by Raising Cane’s in seeking to transfer the venue of this matter from Massachusetts to Louisiana are ‘out of tune’,” the estate’s attorneys argued.

Stearns disagreed in his Feb. 7 ruling, saying 40 of Cane’s 175 restaurants are in the Middle District of Louisiana. The judge also said Cane’s has its headquarters in Baton Rouge, with a support office in Plano, Texas.

The case was formally transferred Monday from Massachusetts to Louisiana and assigned to U.S. District Judge James Brady.

Fifty-Six Hope Road, owned by Marley’s widow and children, contends Cane’s is falsely and deliberately representing in its advertising and marketing that its goods are affiliated with Marley. The family is seeking money from Cane’s for the alleged trademark violation, which it wants stopped.

Cane’s denies the Marleys’ allegations.

Ten days after Fifty-Six Hope Road sued Cane’s in Massachusetts, Cane’s sued Hope Road in federal District Court in Baton Rouge seeking a declaratory judgment that it is not infringing on any of Hope Road’s rights.

Cane’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Todd Graves has said Cane’s chicken-finger meals are the chain’s “one love.”

The company has used the trademark since 2001 with no conflict and registered it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2005, he said.

Marley’s heirs say Cane’s never sought or obtained a license or permission to use the Marley One Love trademark.

The family claims One Love belongs to them because Marley recorded the song in 1965. The song became famous when it was included on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1977 album “Exodus.”

Hope Road has sold clothing bearing the Marley One Love trademark since 1991, the suit says. Hope Road also has licensed Marley One Love hats, stickers, jewelry, other goods and restaurants since 1999.