A Judge Rules That Madonna Does NOT Own The ‘Material Girl’ Trademark

"... [T]he singing of a song does not create a trademark."

Oh snap! It turns out that Madonna, the self-proclaimed Material Girl since 1984, does NOT own the trademark Material Girl. As you may know, Maddy teamed up with Macy’s last year to launch a junior’s line called Material Girl (named for the hit single released by Madonna back in the mid 80′s) but another clothing company who trademarked the name Material Girl in 1997 sued for infringement. This week, a judge ruled in favor of the ’97 trademark holder … and against Madonna … so now the case will go to trial before a jury. Yikes!!

Madonna might be living in a material world, but her hold on the phrase “Material Girl” is legally dubious. A federal judge in California has rejected the pop star’s argument that she has established trademark primacy over “Material Girl” for a line of clothing just because she created a song by the same name in 1985. Madonna and her company, Material Girl Brand, are fighting a lawsuit brought last year by LA Triumph, an L.A.-based clothing retailer that claims to have been selling “Material Girl” clothing since 1997 and has a registered trademark. In response, the singer attempted to get the lawsuit tossed by presenting evidence she created a hit song that brought “Material Girl” to fame more than 25 years ago. In court papers, Madonna said she is the Material Girl, and she was the first user starting in 1985. California Judge S. James Otero isn’t impressed. “Defendants’ argument that Madonna created the ‘Material Girl’ mark through her performances fails as a matter of law,” the judge writes in an order denying summary judgment. “This Court and other courts have recognized that the singing of a song does not create a trademark.” The judge also rejected arguments that $85 million worth of “Material Girl” related merchandise sales in the 1980s is enough to establish being the “senior trademark user” because concert paraphernalia doesn’t strictly equate to clothing sales. But Juse Otero will allow the jury to hear evidence about this at a trial, scheduled for October. If the company lives up to its name, LA Triumph might force Madonna to pick a new name for her clothing at outlets like Macy’s, a co-defendant in the case.

Yeah, I really did not expect this case to get tossed out of court. I really can’t see how Madonna can win her case on legal grounds, to be honest. If she really wanted to own the Material Girl trademark then she had YEARS to do so before LA Triumph trademarked the name in 1997. I suppose it is a bit in Madonna‘s favor that the case is going before a jury. If they can be convinced that she is the rightful owner of the song then she wins. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

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  1. Eddy

    OH Madonna, just stick to music. God love her but you’d think as savvy a businesswoman that she thinks she is, she would have firmed up all her $hit!! She also had a battle with her website domain name (think with a catholic hospital) as well.

    • PHIL

      How was she to know that she would have a clothing line called ‘Material Girl’? She can’t exactly go around trademarking every song title, phrase, or word associated with her ‘just in case’ of what could happen in the future.

    • Darcy

      “Material Girl” is not the same as “every song title, phrase, or word” associated with her. It is her most commonly recognized nickname. Pretty much every article written about her has this phrase in it. She should have trademarked it – it’s a bitch move to now try and use the name 14 years after another company did trademark it.

    • Katy

      Why not, Paris trademarked “that’s hot” in anticipation of using it to make money. Hmm, though did she….? ;)

  2. Janaegal

    Seems she should do the responsible thing and pay the rightful owners and buy them out? If that’s even an option.

  3. krissy

    “Defendants’ argument that Madonna created the ‘Material Girl’ mark through her performances fails as a matter of law,” “This Court and other courts have recognized that the singing of a song does not create a trademark.”

    You’d think that Madonna and her legal counsel would understand this. Trademark law is a very real thing, not something that can be bent around public opinion. There are specific requirements that need to be met.

    I agree with Janeagal, they should have tried to buy it from the original owners instead of wasting countless hours working on this lawsuit. Epic waste of time and money.

  4. Nancy

    madonna is really getting on my nerves this week.

  5. Jesse

    Okay, I get it but the second Burger King comes out with a La Isla Bonita fish sandwich I’m siding with Madonna.

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