Hollywood Docket: '80s Rockers Ratt Out Ex-Bandmate for Trademark Infringement; Rolling Stone's Anonymous Source Deposed

Plus: a judge says Hollywood's accepted business practices don't trump New York law.
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The original bassist from Ratt is using his ex-band’s trademark without permission, according to a federal lawsuit filed by a corporation owned by two of the '80s metal band’s founding members.

Ratt’s heyday was decades ago but the band is still rocking, and ex-Ratt Juan Croucier is confusing fans by playing under a similar moniker, according to a request for a temporary restraining order filed Monday in California.

The application claims two of the original band members, Robert Blotzer and Warren DeMartini, are the only remaining shareholders in WBS, a corporation which owns the Ratt marks. WBS claims Croucier formed his own band in 2015 called Juan Croucier’s Ratt and is intentionally infringing on its trademark in an effort to capitalize off of the original band’s recognition.

Croucier left the band willingly in 1997, but came back as a contract bassist for shows in 2012 and 2013, WBS says, and he left at the end of 2013 because he wanted to be lead singer of Ratt and the group wouldn’t let him.

According to the TRO application, Croucier has been using the Ratt mark on advertisements, websites, merchandise and marquees and has been “referring to himself as ‘The Other Voice of Ratt,' even though, as mentioned above, he was never the lead singer of Ratt.”

Croucier claims he never consented to transfer his ownership in the Ratt marks when he left the band in the late '90s.

U.S. District Court Judge Dean R. Pregerson isn't convinced either party owns the marks. He denied the request on Thursday, finding "given the uncertainty regarding ownership of the marks, Plaintiff has not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits." 

Pregerson previously denied a TRO in the case in October and ordered the parties to mediation. 

WBS claims it was close to a resolution with Croucier, but settlement negotiations broke down and they took another shot at a TRO. 

To complicate matters further, there's a concurrent dispute between the WBS shareholders pending in California state court.

In other recent entertainment and media law news:

— The source behind Rolling Stone's since-retracted article about a rape at a University of Virginia fraternity wasn't able to dodge a deposition. Attorneys representing the woman known as "Jackie" asked the court to spare her the traumatic experience of talking about the alleged assault. Chief U.S. District Judge Glen E. Conrad on Monday denied that motion in its entirety. UVA's dean Nicole Eramo is suing the magazine for defamation, and her attorneys asked the court to give them extra time to depose Jackie, since Rolling Stone had communicated extensively with her leading up to the article. Conrad agreed, in part, and granted Eramo's attorneys an extra 90 minutes. The court also ruled that the declaration from Jackie's psychologist will be sealed and that doctor can't be deposed or otherwise subjected to discovery. A Charlottesville, Va., local news website reports that Jackie was deposed on Thursday as planned and Eramo's attorneys say it was "quite productive." Recordings and transcripts of the deposition are confidential. 

— The New York State Supreme Court judge handling Harvey Keitel's lawsuit against E*Trade doesn't remember the company's dancing baby ads, but that didn't hurt its odds in his courtroom. Judge Charles E. Ramos granted the company's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Oscar-nominated actor that claimed the company backed out of a contract that would have put him in the set of E*Trade commercials that followed the boogie-ing baby. E*Trade argued a term sheet sent to Keitel wasn't a binding contract. The actor's attorneys argued that in Hollywood non-executed deal memos make the world go round, but the judge didn't agree. "I'm sorry but the culture that pervades Hollywood or the entertainment industry doesn't substitute for the law of the State of New York," Ramos said. "Believe me, I've been trying to figure a way to save Mr. Keitel's claim here. I think the biggest favor I'm going to do him now is dismiss the claim and save him a lot of money in needlessly pursuing a claim that ultimately is going nowhere."

— Boutique law firm Kendall Brill & Kelly on Thursday announced it is adding one of Los Angeles’ highest-ranking federal prosecutors to its roster: Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Dugdale. According to the announcement, Dugdale supervised the Sony computer hacking case and “most of the other significant federal cases” the office has handled during the past decade. Dugdale has been a trial attorney for nearly 20 years, according to the release, and will join the firm as a partner on May 2 to expand its white-collar practice and enhance its litigation expertise.

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