The nature of celebrity would seem to make someone a target for intellectual property lawsuits, as noted in this space over the years, but that reading is a bit reductive, and elides the responsibility that the celebrity in question might bear. Sure, there may be cases where individuals or entities are looking for an easy payday, but the intoxicating mix of fame and power that accompany celebrity might make those people more prone to stepping on the rights of those of us living and working in the world they long ago left behind.
Taylor Swift is one such celebrity that long ago slipped the surly bonds of a normal existence to ascend to superstardom, and as such is no stranger to copyright and trademark cases brought by people with perhaps legitimate grievances about having their IP trampled by an entertainment titan. The latest case to hit the news involves her recent album evermore and a theme park of similar name in Utah.
Evermore Park, a fantasy-based theme park located in Pleasant Grove, Utah (just south of Salt Lake City, for reference) is suing Swift for trademark infringement over the title of her album. The park alleges that Swift’s album is both causing confusion among guests and harming their discoverability on Google, as well as infringing upon trademarks held by the park for merchandise and soundtracks.
As always, it’s worth reiterating that, broadly speaking, the principle that undergirds trademark law is avoiding confusion among consumers, lest they spend money on a product or experience misrepresenting itself as something else. In this instance, it’s fair to say that the two parties in question are rather disparate; it’s hard to see how one might travel to the greater Salt Lake City area believing they’re going to a theme park for Taylor Swift, or purchase merchandise from the park’s website mistaking it for Swiftie gear.
At a minimum, it’s certainly unfortunate for the park if they believe that Swift has somehow drawn attention away from their enterprise, but that alone is not worthy of a lawsuit. Their case would be bolstered if Swift were selling merchandise in the vein of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter style wands and wizardry, but that is similarly not occurring. Instead, they just had the misfortune of having the same name as an album of great import to a legion of fans, learning the hard way that, IP law or no, you can only own something so long as someone or something more famous doesn’t come along to claim it.