(NEW YORK) — Reality television star Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino, who is celebrating his 32nd birthday and the fourth of July on Thursday, may find celebratory fireworks conciliatory after losing his lawsuit against retailer Abercrombie and Fitch for trademark violations.
Sorrentino, whose nickname refers to his abdominal muscles, filed a lawsuit against Abercrombie and Fitch in November 2012, claiming the company abused his name, image and trademark when asking him publicly not to wear the brand’s clothes on the show and then making T-shirts like “The Fitchuation” and “GTL,” in reference to a catchphrase made famous in MTV’s Jersey Shore: gym, tanning and laundry.
In 2011, Abercrombie and Fitch claimed that it tried to give a “substantial payment” to Sorrentino not to wear its clothes and underwear.
“We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans,” the company said in August 2011. A&F also offered to pay off Sorrentino’s Jersey Shore cast-mates not to wear the clothes.
Reid Wilson, vice president and associate general counsel for the company, said in a statement, ”We believed that the complaint against us was frivolous from the beginning, and we feel fully vindicated by the result. As to the underlying issues, we think that the entire matter is yesterday’s news.”
Sorrentino and his attorneys could not be reached for comment.
Sorrentino’s attorneys argued “The Situation” is eligible for trademark protection because it is “suggestive” or “arbitrary or fanciful,” which are categories of “distinctiveness” according to another appellate court’s decision in a trademark infringement case.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida ruled last Friday that, ”Although the word ‘situation’ is not a word that was coined or made up by the plaintiffs, or a word that is obsolete, totally unknown in the language or out of common usage, the court can discern no relationship between the word ‘situation’ and the apparel or entertainment services that the plaintiffs provide.”
O’Sullivan also wrote that Sorrentino and his company, MPS Entertainment LLC, did not develop his trademarks in time.
“At the time A&F began selling its ‘The Fitchuation’ T-shirt in February 2010, plaintiffs had not used ‘The Situation’ on a T-shirt or any other apparel,” O’Sullivan wrote.
Sorrentino “did not develop any common law rights to ‘The Situation’ for apparel until June of 2010 at the earliest,” the ruling stated, and ”did not offer apparel until after A&F introduced its parody T-shirt, and even then only on their website, officialsituation.com.”
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Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Paul R. La Monica, CNN