A Los Angeles jury has ruled that the Frank Sinatra trademark was infringed by an unauthorized tribute show featuring an impersonator, Sinatra family lawyers said Thursday.
The show, which played briefly in Atlantic City in 2001 and in Las Vegas in 2002, was called “Sinatra: The Main Event” and was billed in ads and posters as an unauthorized biography of the celebrated singer, who died in 1998.
But lawyers for the Sinatra family argued that the words “unauthorized” were in such small print that the public would be confused. Sinatra had also used “Sinatra: The Main Event” as the title of a television program and of audio and video recordings during his life.
Mark Lee, lawyer for Sinatra Enterprises at the trial, said the Los Angeles federal court jury awarded “substantial” damages and issued a permanent injunction against the presenters of the show, Jeffrey Kutash and his company Main Event Inc.
Lee said the ruling, handed down late last month and confirmed by the judge this week, had potential repercussions for other such productions.
“This case clearly stands for the proposition that you cannot use the Sinatra trademarks in a production in a way that is likely to confuse the public into believing that it is an authorized show when it isn’t.”
The ruling “does indicate that other parties should be cautious before they decide to exploit trademarks in an unauthorized production,” Lee said.
Sinatra’s daughter Tina said the family brought the lawsuit to protect Sinatra’s legacy. “My father spent a lifetime concerned with the quality and integrity of his professional life; it is unfortunate that we must resort to the judicial system to stop people who simply want to profit from the use of his name,” she said in a statement.