Joan Jett Sues Hot Topic for Trademark Infringement

Rock star Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records Group Inc. sued mall-based retailer Hot Topic Inc. for trademark infringement, claiming the chain is selling its own line of women’s clothing under the Blackheart brand.

Blackheart, named for Jett’s band, said in a filing dated June 12 in Manhattan federal court that consumers would be confused by apparel being sold by the retailer under that name.

According to the complaint, Hot Topic approached Blackheart in February 2010 to design and distribute clothing and other merchandise featuring the brand. Hot Topic later announced its “new test retail concept, Blackheart.” Hot Topic, based in City of Industry, California, said in a statement yesterday that it operates five Blackheart stores.

“After experimenting with legitimate and illegitimate items that use and or are sold under the Blackheart family of marks, defendants commenced their own line of clothing under their own new Blackheart brand,” according to the filing.

Hot Topic describes itself as a mall and web-based specialty retailer offering apparel and other items influenced by music and pop culture. There are 618 Hot Topic stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

“This is a surprise to us, and we are confident in our rights to use the Blackheart brand name,” the company said in a statement e-mailed by spokeswoman Jennifer Vides. “We have 11 different registered trademarks with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the use of the Blackheart brand for retail stores, apparel, lingerie, accessories, cosmetics and more.”

Sycamore Purchase

Sycamore Partners LLC, a New York-based private-equity firm, said yesterday it completed the acquisition of Hot Topc in a deal valued at $600 million. The five Blackheart stores offer “an expanded collection of dark, edgy, sexy lingerie, accessories and beauty products,” according to a statement.

“Blackheart Records has for years abandoned trademark filings for the use of the Blackheart name on apparel and accessories, and when we contacted them a year ago about acquiring the Blackheart URL, they never indicated a problem with our use of the brand name,” Hot Topic said in the e-mailed statement. “We would have preferred that Ms. Jett contact us directly to address any issues with our stores.”

Jett formed the all-female band the Runaways in 1973 at the age of 15. In the late 1970s, she and Kenneth Laguna started Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, which had a chart-topping hit with “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.’’ They formed Blackheart Records to market music and other merchandise. The Blackheart design received a federally registered trademark in 1985, according to the suit.

The case is Blackheart Records Group Inc. v. Hot Topic Inc., 13-cv-04054, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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