“Soul Men” Film Materials Did not Infringe Rights Relating to “Soul Man” Song, Says Tennessee Federal Court

In a 98-page ruling, a U.S. district judge in Nashville, Tennessee dismissed an unfair competition lawsuit in which singer Sam Moore claimed that The Weinstein Co., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., and others involved in the creation of the 2008 comedy film “Soul Men” infringed unregistered trademarks associated with Moore’s 1967 song “Soul Man.” Moore v. The Weinstein Co., No. 3:09-civ-00166 (M.D. Tenn. May 23, 2012).

Among other rulings in the broad-ranging opinion, the court concluded that the title of the film and other materials relating to the film were of artistic relevance to the film’s content. In such cases,  pursuant to a standard developed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994, 999 (6th Cir. 1989), “the interests of artistic expression” under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution “preclude the application of the Lanham Act” unless the materials are explicitly misleading on their face. The court found no such misleading features in the title or other materials complained of by Moore.

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