Knievel Sues 'Kanyevel' over trademark

Legendary Evel Knievel is sueing rapper Kanye West for alleged "trademark infringement, trademark dilution, unfair competition, and unauthorized use of Evel Knievel's likeness". In the video (see video here) Kanye took the persona of Evel Knieval and tries to jump the Grand Canyon in a rocket as Evel did decades ago. The rocket Kanye uses is similarly marked as Evels was for his attempt. There is actually no doubt that Kanye is copying large portions of this event, That undoubtedly is his intent.

The real question is, should that be illegal. Should Evel Knievels unquestionable trademark rights extend to controlling other peoples artistic impressions of Evel's cultural legacy?

I am not a lawyer, so I'm not going to make legal arguments on this stuff, except to say that originally trademarks were designed to protect businesses in the same industry from profiting off of a competitors logo or other identifying marks. In recent years the scope of trademark protection has widened significantly to the point where now artistic expressions which draw on cultural references are becoming legal targets.

With regard to trademark dilution or unfair competition. I am fairly sure that in order for Evel Knievel and Evel Kanyevel to compete, they would necessarily have to be in the same industry. Until such time as Evel Knievel starts making rap music videos or Kanye West goes into the daredevil business, then there is little chance of that. If anything I'd say Evel Knievel's parapheneilia business has been helped by this because it has reminded people about Knievels otherwise forgotten career.

As for unauthorized use of Knievel's persona, well, I don't think there is any argument there. The question of course is why should Kanye need his permission? More and more celebrities have been trying to claim control of other people's use of their persona, and more and more the courts have been giving it to them. Erroneously I think. Celebrities, in particular those that have sought celebrity status have the least claim to that control. Once they have allowed their persona's to become a part of popular culture, they have to allow people to make reasonable use of their likenesses. That is the price for popularity. There is precedent for this of course, in copyright law you can copy protected works for research or criticism and it the US you can do so for the purposes of parody as well (not in Canada I'm afraid so watch out Air Farce)

It is time that we reign in intellectual monopoly laws. There have already been many examples of art lost do to too strong of IP laws, this may become the next casualty. Rest assured there will be many more if we continue down this path.

Darryl Moore