A Houston judge has ruled in favor of a music management company in its dispute with one of its formerly-contracted artists.
On May 28, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon of the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas granted an injunction against the parents of a teen aged girl who continue to use the name and persona an entertainment company allegedly created for the girl despite the termination of their contract.
As previously reported, Wayne Anderson and Roxell Richards, individually and doing business as Visionworld Entertainment, filed a lawsuit May 2 in the Houston County District Court against Harvey and Shannon Baker, individually and as representatives of K.B., a minor, citing copyright infringement.
Visionworld is a Texas-based entertainment consulting and management company that is owned and operated by Anderson and Richards.
Harvey and Shannon Baker are the parents of 15-year-old Kaylah Sharvey Baker who court papers say "aspires to become a professional singer and entertainer."
The Bakers say their daughter has been performing in local pageants and competitions since she was 6 years old under the name “Kaylah Baker.”
The Bakers and Visionworld entered into an exclusive management agreement on May 25, 2013. According to court papers, the purpose of the agreement was to "promote and enhance Kaylah’s career" and to assist in all business transactions with affiliates regarding all aspects of entertainment such as music, television and film.
For her part, Kaylah agreed to perform at all bookings that Visionworld arranged, to perform music selected by Visionworld and to attend all scheduled meetings and rehearsals, according to court papers. The one-year agreement allocated 75 percent of all profits, losses and expenses to Kaylah and 25 percent to Anderson.
The management company claims it researched other artists to see if there was a conflict with Kaylah’s name and discovered another artist named “Kaylah B.” A company stylist alleges she suggested to Visionworld that Kaylah use the stage name “Sharvé,” dropping the “y” and adding an accent to her middle name.
Visionworld claims it invested significant amounts of time and money – around $100,000 -- in developing the Sharvé brand and mark, including voice lessons, stage performance coaching, makeup, styling, photoshoots, marketing, concert appearances and recording of a single and music video “What You Think I’m On?”
The company also claims it created Sharvé’s “signature look,” including a side ponytail or hat and a heart-sign hand gesture. Visionworld also created a fan club for Sharvé, set up a charitable foundation in her name and maintained close management of all Sharve social media accounts.
According to the court documents, the relationship between Visionworld and the Bakers “started to break down” in late 2013 when the Bakers began questioning the allocation of funds they invested and demanded an accounting.
Shannon Baker allegedly changed all the passwords on the social media accounts to keep Visionworld from accessing the sites and began putting up her own photos of Kaylah as Sharvé.
Anderson claims he informed Shannon Baker that after the contract was up, Kaylah would have no rights to the Sharvé name, mark or any of the associated trade dress. The contract was terminated on March 3.
After that, court papers allege that Shannon Baker contacted many of Visonworld’s affiliates, including dancers and songwriters in an effort to continue Kaylah’s relationship with them.
Shannon Baker continued to manage and promote Kaylah under the name Sharvé, according to Visionworld.
Visionworld complains that the images appearing on Sharvé’s social-media accounts in recent months are "more sexualized" and are inconsistent with the "wholesome image of Sharvé" that Visionworld created and marketed.
"Plaintiffs claim that they regularly receive calls and complaints from affiliates who believe that Visionworld is Sharvé’s manager and are troubled by the new image that they believe Visionworld is creating for Sharvé," court papers say.
The court concludes that Visionworld both created the Sharvé mark and first used the mark in commerce," wrote Judge Harmon.
"Defendants contend that Plaintiffs cannot legally register the mark because it is Kaylah Baker’s middle name and she never gave consent for Visionworld to trademark her birth name.
"This Court, after hearing testimony and viewing the exhibits, concurs with Plaintiffs’ position and finds that the name Sharvé is not Kaylah Sharvey Baker’s name and does not identify a living individual. Therefore, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(c) does not apply and Plaintiff was not obligated to obtain written consent from Kaylah or her parents in order to make use of the Sharvé mark in commerce."
Judge Harmon concluded that Visionworld met its burden to show infringement of their mark by demonstrating that a "likelihood of confusion exists with regard to the image of Sharvé created by Visionworld and the image of Sharvé now being promoted by Plaintiffs."
"By using and promoting the name created and marketed by Visionworld in conjunction with an unwholesome image that is at odds with Visionworld’s reputation, Plaintiffs jeopardize Visionworld’s goodwill and relationship with existing and potential clients," she wrote.
"The Court finds that the balance of harms weighs in favor of granting Plaintiffs’ request for relief."
But the judge added that Kaylah has been performing under her given name since the age of 6 and "this injunction will not prevent her from continuing to do so."
Judge Harmon referred the case to Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy for a Rule 16 hearing and the entry of a scheduling order for an expedited trial on the merits.
Houston County District Court Case No. 14-cv-01211