“Brother Thelonious” False Endorsement Suit to Proceed
A California federal court has refused to dismiss a trademark infringement and right of publicity lawsuit filed by the estate of Thelonious Monk against a craft brewery selling “Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale,” finding the estate sufficiently pleaded all causes of action. Monk v. North Coast Brewing Co., No. 17-5015 (N.D. Cal., entered January 31, 2018). Monk’s son had agreed to allow North Coast Brewing Co. to use the musician’s name, likeness and image on the ale in exchange for the brewery’s donation of a portion of the profits to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, but he allegedly revoked his consent because the brewer extended the use to apparel and other merchandise.
The court found plausible that the estate had a protectable interest in Monk’s name, image and likeness and that it had alleged enough facts to support a possible finding of likelihood of confusion. Although it noted both parties failed “to engage with the relevant doctrine” of law, the court will consider the trademark infringement claim as one of false endorsement and permit a claim for unjust enrichment to proceed as a quasi-contract claim.