Third Circuit Joins Sister Courts in Ruling TTAB Decisions May Not Have Preclusive Effect
On September 17, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a precedential decision that affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded a decision by the District Court for the District of New Jersey, holding that trademark cancellation proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) do not preclude infringement claims in federal district court. In 1969, David Beasley formed a band named “The Ebonys” in Camden, New Jersey. The Ebonys were one of many bands that helped create the “Philadelphia Sound” which incorporated elements of soul, funk, and disco. The Ebonys achieved some commercial success in the 1970s but failed to reach the notoriety of other groups. As the decades wore on, the Ebonys’ popularity faded, though Beasley alleges they performed continuously since their formation. In the mid-1990s William Howard joined the band, and in 1997, Beasley obtained a New Jersey state service mark for THE EBONYS. Relations between Howard and Beasley soured and the pair parted ways. Each artist believed themselves the owner of the Ebonys name, and in 2012, Howard obtained Registration No. 4,170,469 (the ‘469 mark) for THE EBONYS, as a federal trademark.