Trademark Law – Kevin Durant accused of ripping off the “Durantula” nickname

In an unsuprising development, Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant becomes known to the general public with his appearance in the NBA Finals, only to be greeted with a trademark infringement lawsuit (click here for the lawsuit).  Durant is accused by Mark Durante, a veteran Chicago-based guitarist, for infringing Durante’s trademark in the nickname “Durantula.”  Durante has been known as Durantula for some time.

Durant’s most commonly-referred to nickname is “KD” (an unfortunate development with basketball players and other celebrities to be now known by their initials or shortened versions of their names, who used to be known with more creative nicknames like “Magic” or the “Mailman”).  Sometimes he is called “Durantula,” and Nike and others have used the Durantula name in commerce.

Durant apparently claims the use by Nike and others of the Durantula name was done without his authorization, and it is not clear at this point if that is true.  Regardless, for now Durante seems to have 2 big hurdles in this lawsuit.  One is that trademark protection is only given if Durant’s use of the trademark is likely to cause customer confusion with Durante.  It is highly unlikely anyone would confuse Durant with Durante (see Durante’s website for a photo and info on Durante, if you don’t know what Durant looks like, here he is).  The second problem is that if Durante should claim Durant is causing “reverse confusion” or reverse “passing off” (if Durant sold Durante’s product in a way that customers think the source of the product is Durant, so that anyone wanting a Durantula the guitarist T-shirt would buy it from Durant and not Durante), again Durante is not going to be able to prove Durant is trying to pass himself off as the Durantula guitarist and in any event the two are not selling similar products or services.

One would think Durante and Durant should be able to co-exist in the marketplace and share the Durantula nickname, but we will see.

For more on this case, see this Courthouse News article.

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