Those Angry Birds are now mad at something else besides those nefarious pigs.
Rovio Inc., the developer of the popular video game franchise from Finland, filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against a South Florida company it claims infringes upon its enraged characters.
Rovio’s suit filed Oct. 8 in Miami claims the logo of Key Biscayne golf equipment maker Angry Club LLC is far too similar to the iconic birds.
“The similarities between the Angry Club name and Rovio’s Angry Birds branding goes beyond the marks themselves,” said the lawsuit filed by Rovio attorney Kevin K. Ross, a partner at K&L Gates in Miami. “Angry Club uses a stylized version of the Angry Club name, which includes a red A with eyes and furrowed eyebrows to have that iconic ‘angry’ look that is the hallmark of Rovio’s Angry Birds.”
Roxio’s game where a player catapults birds at structures made by snarky bovines is spawned numerous versions related products including board games and stuffed animals. More than 12 million copies of the game have been purchased from Apple Inc.
The lawsuit includes a copy of a golf club cover resembling the iconic red bird from the game as well as golf balls with Angry Bird characters on them.
Patrick Simpson-Jones, owner of Angry Club, said Tuesday that he plans to fight the lawsuit, which he called ridiculous.
“It’s Goliath trying to get in the way of anybody who goes near it,” he said.
The year-old company took the Angry Club name because its signature golf-swing training club is supposed to take the anger out of the frustrated golfer, Simpson-Jones said. A recorded message on the club tell the duffer to calm down. The company’s putter grip tells golfers to loosen their grip, and its ball retriever tells golf jokes.
“My objective is to get kids to go outside and play golf, not interact with a little machine,” Simpson-Jones said.
Ross could not be reached for comment by deadline on the 18-page lawsuit assigned to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. Rovio seeks an injunction to bar Angry Club from producing goods with logos that resemble Angry Birds’ trademarks.
The lawsuit claims the similarity between the two logos creates confusion that renders Angry Club liable for trademark infringement. It also said Angry Club lessens the uniqueness of the Angry Birds’ trademarks.
The lawsuit could pivot on whether Rovio can protect the word “angry” and anything that resembles a furrowed brow, said attorney Jason Weber, a partner at Xander Law Group in Miami who is representing Simpson-Jones.
But he said the logos and the nature of the two businesses are far too different for the lawsuit to succeed.
“They have a right to prevent dilution of intellectual property, and I understand that, but what they are doing here is going too far,” Weber said. “What they are trying do here is own any expression of anger. How else do you express something that is angry other than the color red and with the eyes?”
Miami attorney Mark Terry, who specializes in intellectual property law and is not involved in the lawsuit, said it’s pretty clear to him the defendant is trying to trade off the Angry Bird logo. He said it takes a lot of time and money to build the sort of recognition that Rovio has with Angry Birds and startups often try to capture the magic of successful brands.
“The defendant must have been aware of the well-known red bird owned by Rovio and created a logo that looks similar to that,” Terry said.
Michael Longo, a senior associate at Lydecker Diaz in Miami who also specializes in trademark law, said it’s hard to assess the case at this early stage but added, “The plaintiff appears to have made a moderately strong claim that consumers of its products—especially those related to golf—may be misled by defendant’s proposed mark.”
The ultimate disposition is likely to come down to which party can raise stronger evidence about the likelihood of consumer confusion.
Longo said: “These allegations may be stronger because even if no customer is confused, the plaintiff can prevail by showing that defendant is creating negative associations with—or reducing the distinctiveness of—the plaintiff’s mark.”