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Are They Still Family? : Sister Sledge Trademark Dispute Reaches Federal Court
July 12, 2013
I remember it all too well. It was 1979, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were completing their historic World Series comeback against my hometown Baltimore Orioles. The Pirates’ theme song that year was the GRAMMY award-winning hit We Are Family by Sister Sledge. In addition to providing inspiration for the Pirates, We are Family propelled sisters Kim, Debbie, Kathy, and Joni Sledge to worldwide fame. Now 35 years later, the sisters are embroiled in a dispute over the right to use the Sister Sledge trademark. That dispute has made its way to the U.S. District Court in Arizona in Sister Sledge, LLC v. Kathy Sledge Lightfoot, et al., Case No. 2:13-cv-01327.
The lawsuit alleges that Kathy Sledge, who left the group in 1989 to pursue a solo career, is improperly using Plaintiff’s “Sister Sledge” trademark by performing under the names Sister Sledge, Sister Sledge ft Kathy Sledge and Sister Sledge featuring Kathy Sledge. Plaintiff contends that Kathy’s use of its trademark has resulted in “actual confusion, mistake, and deception of consumers who wrongly believed that Sister Sledge, and not an imposter group, would perform.” Plaintiff seeks damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment.
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