Salt Lake City, UT asked in Copyright and Trademark

Q: Is it a violation of copyright law to write memoirs about a boat named the Kahlua Kruiser?

In 1985, I named my houseboat the Kahlua Kruiser and posted the name on the boat. I owned the boat for 15 years until I sold it in 2000. I am now writing memoirs about my houseboating on Lake Powell. I have used the name Kahlua Kruiser in these memoirs. Kahlua is a copyrighted name and if these memoirs are published and sold at boat marinas, do I have a problem with the copyright owners? Easy solution: I can always just change the name if there is a problem. Thank You!

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2 Lawyer Answers
Timothy John Billick
Timothy John Billick
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • Seattle, WA

A: This is a tough call, but you are running a risk of trademark infringement and false designation of origin violations. Trademark infringement is a highly fact-intensive analysis, so you should consult with an IP attorney before you embark on this project.

Some factors courts analyze in an infringement analysis include: (1) strength of the marks, (2) relatedness of the goods, (3) similarity of the marks, (4) evidence of actual confusion, (5) marketing channels, (6) degree of consumer care, (7) defendant's intent in selecting the mark, and (8) likelihood of expansion of the product lines.

Given how long Kahlua has been around, they will likely be very assertive in their brand protection. However I do think have solid arguments against an infringement allegation.

Marcos Garciaacosta agrees with this answer

Marcos Garciaacosta
Marcos Garciaacosta

A: You should consult with an attorney and maybe reach out to the trademark owners to see if they have any objection. An approval from them may be the best if you can get it, but they may want some editorial control

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