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Band Name Trademark Dispute: Creedence v. John Fogerty


I’m always on the lookout for news about Creedence, particularly those having to do with leads on who broke into Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski’s car and stole his tapes, tape deck, and briefcase. Sadly, the LAPD has no update on that case, but there is a band name trademark dispute to discuss. Lead singer and songwriter John Fogerty is being sued by his former Creedence Clearwater Revival bandmates. If you’re thinking, “Huh, wasn’t there a lawsuit about that years ago?,” you’re right. And now they’re at it again.

The original CCR broke up in 1972. In 1995, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, the band’s original bass player and drummer, began performing with other musicians as Creedence Clearwater Revisited (the fourth CCR member, John Fogerty’s brother Tom, had passed away in 1990, but his widow, Patricia, approved Cook and Clifford’s new band name.) In 1996, Fogerty sued Cook, Clifford, and Patricia. The case went back and forth, and the parties ultimately entered into a settlement agreement in 2001. Fogerty agreed to withdraw his objection to the others’ performing as Creedence Clearwater Revisited, no third parties could perform as “Creedence” or any variation thereof without Fogerty’s permission, and they agreed to pay Fogerty for the use of the band name Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

Since then, Cook and Clifford have continued to perform as “Revisited,” and Fogerty has performed and released solo music.

In 2011, Fogarty gave an interview to CTV News which stated, in part:

“I would prefer that that didn’t happen,” Fogerty said of his former bandmates touring with a name similar to the old CCR moniker.

“We had an agreement among ourselves way back in the day that we would never do such a thing, and having seen the result of these guys doing this now I still have the same opinion. I think it really confuses the fans.

“Using the name is sort of a sacrilege to what we believed when we were young guys in a band together — but you know, I don’t sit around and worry about it too much.”

Poor Boy, the company that represents Revisited, asked Fogerty to stop making these kinds of statements. He refused, and Poor Boy ceased making payments to him per the settlement agreement.
One can infer from the facts available that any attempted negotiations haven’t gone well. On December 5, 2014, Poor Boy, along with Cook, Clifford, and Patricia, sued Fogerty for, among other claims, breach of contract and trademark infringement.
Where does the trademark infringement come in? The plaintiffs allege that Fogerty has used the Creedence Clearwater Revival trademark by advertising concerts in which he “performs the albums of Creedence Clearwater Revival,” for example. Given what we currently know about this case, this claim seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s reasonable for Fogerty to advertise that, in a concert, he will play the songs of the band that made him famous – songs that he wrote and sang. It’s not like he played backup kazoo on an obscure CCR B-side. Would any reasonable fan be confused by an advertisement stating “John Fogerty Plays the Songs of Creedence Clearwater Revival” into thinking that the surviving original members of the band would be there? Of course not. If the surviving band members were all performing together, they’d just call the band Creedence Clearwater Revival and presumably be able to sell a lot more tickets for their big reunion tour.
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