GospelChops Battles Drumstick Manufacturer Vic Firth Company in Landmark Trademark Infringement Case
When internationally renowned drum video producer, Gerald Forrest introduced GospelChops to the music community back in 2004, it was an effort that was recognized as ground breaking. The web portal was a unique homage to the musical roots of the Black church as Forrest brought recognition to gospel musicians who were routinely overlooked by mainstream media outlets and music instrument manufacturers. A relentless visionary, Forrest expounded upon the concept over the years, expanding his brand with the performance/instruction “Sessionz” series, which included “Shed Sessionz” and “Bass Sessionz.” Forrest now finds himself in a David vs. Goliath type biblical battle as he fights to protect his brands and the integrity of his constituents. His lawyer, Cari A. Cohorn of Cohorn Law (www.cohornlaw.com) has filed a lawsuit on his behalf for willful trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, and unfair and deceptive trade practices against Vic Firth Company, an industry leader in the drumstick market, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (Case No 2:16−CV−02981−KJM−EFB). Forrest is seeking a jury trial, injunctive relief, treble damages and attorneys’ fees based on infringement of his federally registered Shed Sessionz, GospelChops, and GC GospelChops trademarks.
In the complaint, Forrest alleges that use of the title, The Shed Sessions, by Vic Firth Company for its drum video advertisements, infringes the Shed Sessionz trademark, which Forrest has used exclusively in commerce as a source identifier for his drum video series since at least 2006. The complaint further alleges that Vic Firth Company is unjustly benefitting from the outstanding global reputation of Shed Sessionz and GC GospelChops as sources for drum videos and drumsticks, earned from more than a decade of sales of DVD’s and drumsticks prominently featuring the Shed Sessionz and GC GospelChops marks.
Forrest further alleges that Vic Firth Company uses his federally registered trademarks or confusingly similar marks as metatags on its web pages and videos hosted on the Vic Firth channel at YouTube.com to gain priority in search engine rankings and in violation of federal law.
The complaint cites a business relationship from 2008 to 2013 between Vic Firth Company and Forrest, in which Vic Firth manufactured drumsticks for Forrest printed with the GC GospelChops trademark accompanied by the ® symbol. Forrest cites this as evidence that Vic Firth Company’s acts were “knowing, willful, deliberate, in bad faith, and in utter disregard of Plaintiff’s rights.”
“The drumming industry has a long history of contempt and disrespect for Black, gospel drummers,” cites Forrest. “This was the original impetus behind Gospel Chops as I sought to create a vehicle for an untapped and under-appreciated market. It is impossible to understand the devastating impact of this infringement unless you acknowledge all the components. There are no Black-owned entities within this realm. It is clearly no accident that after I take the initiative to create a niche market for gospel musicians, my intellectual property is stolen by one of the largest companies in this industry. I am taking a stand for gospel musicians around the world. I may appear the underdog here, but history has shown that giants do not always prevail.”
“The allegations in this case paint a picture of ‘reverse confusion’ trademark infringement,” explains attorney Cari A. Cohorn. “This occurs when a large, well-established company infringes on a mark owned by a smaller company (typically a competitor). Instances of reverse confusion infringement can be devastating to the smaller company – and to competition itself – by creating improper obstacles to the smaller company’s growth. Among other things, because of the greater marketing reach of the larger company, the public is likely to assume that the smaller company is the one attempting to unfairly capitalize on the larger company’s goodwill and brand recognition.”
The Shed Sessionz video series is one of the most popular drumming ventures in history. The “Sessionz” series has featured performances by some of the industry’s most extraordinary players, including Tony Royster Jr., Thomas Pridgen, Ronald Bruner Jr., Matt Garstka, and Grammy Award-winning drummer Peter Erskine.
After years of community building efforts and charitable work, GospelChops received 501(c)3 status in 2010. Building on his legacy in the gospel music arena, Forrest released his first documentary project in 2014 entitled “Boswell & Figg,” which chronicles the church’s influence in the development of two phenomenal drummers.
Forrest boldly continues the GospelChops legacy with expansion into the music instrument market with the recent introduction of the 18-inch SHED Crash™ cymbal and the upcoming DVD, “Shed Sessionz Vol. 4,” slated for release later this year. The SHED Crash™ cymbals have received global acclaim with international sales well above Forrest’s expectations. In addition, with “Shed Sessionz VOL. 4,” Forrest is promising to stretch the boundaries of his directorial creativity further than ever before.
Currently in his third year at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Forrest has concentrated his studies on intellectual property law, including copyrights, trademarks, and brand protection strategies and will graduate in 2017, earning a Juris Doctor degree.
Credit: Jazzmyne Public Relations