Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended its 150-year run as an operating circus in May 2017. The show garnered worldwide fame as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. This tagline became so synonymous with the Circus that the owners obtained a trademark registration on the phrase and even as the Circus has now ended, the trademark registration lives on. Unfortunately for Kid Rock, the owners of this trademark registration are now suing him for trademark infringement after he branded his upcoming concert tour “Greatest Show on Earth Tour 2018”.
While the owners are no longer promoting a live circus, they continue to actively license the trademark for things like apparel and toys. They also have plans to develop television programs based on circus performances that will use “The Greatest Show on Earth” tagline. Their long history of using the mark (their trademark filing claims first use back to 1891) plus their plans for expansion into television programming provide ample support for their trademark infringement suit filed against Kid Rock and his concert tour.
The Circus owners have several trademark registrations covering “The Greatest Show on Earth” for things like “entertainment services in the form of a circus”, “toys”, and “t-shirts.” But trademark registrations don’t last forever without doing anything. To retain trademark rights, the registrant must show that they are continuing to use the mark in commerce. Initially after five years of registration, the registrant must submit a specimen evidencing use showing the USPTO that they are still using the mark. After the first five years, the requirement to show use continues every ten years. As long as the Circus owners continue to make use of the tagline in connection with the relevant goods or services, they are entitled to maintain their trademark registrations indefinitely.
With strong trademark protection in entertainment and apparel related classes, Kid Rock is going to have a hard time calling his concert tour “Greatest Show on Earth Tour” without running afoul of the Ringling Bros.’ registrations. Unless he can work out a licensing deal or other arrangement with the owners, it’s likely he will have to change the name of his tour. There really is only one “Greatest Show on Earth”.
If you are thinking about branding or have questions about the trademark process, please contact the trademark attorneys at Trademark Access. Let our experience protect your valuable brand.