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Central query re Kid Rock litigation: What is trademark dilution?

If you're of a certain age, a single and strong image likely leaps out at you when you hear the phrase "The Greatest Show on Earth."

It's the circus, right? That tagline has for decades been intimately linked with animals, oddities and big-tent acts appearing under the auspices of Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Bros.

The traveling circus is now gone, but not its catchphrase. The owners of those trademarked words long ago saw their powerful and enduring value in the commercial realm. Field Entertainment, the mark's owner, licensees the phrase to select parties for a nice profit, and it is quick on the litigation trigger when it sees alleged infringers of the mark.

Like entertainer and singer Kid Rock, who has a song with that title and additionally selected it to name his current concert tour.

That didn't sit well with Field Entertainment from the outset. That entity filed a federal trademark lawsuit last month alleging dilution and seeking money damages.

That begs this question: What is dilution?

Field Entertainment does not argue that Rock is guilty of classic trademark infringement, which employs a "likelihood of confusion" test that finds infringement where a usurper's use confuses consumers as to products or source. Rather, the company argues that Rock's use of the phrase for his tour diminishes the uniqueness of the time-honored brand, thus tarnishing it.

And for that Field Entertainment wants an immediate injunction and money damage for any profits the entertainer made through the sale of merchandise using the phrase.

Rock has changed his tour's name as a result of the suit, but Field Entertainment says that doing so is irrelevant to its claims.

The plaintiff's litigation stance is clearly aggressive and intended to stress its resolve in defending its mark.

"We have authorized licensees … but Kid Rock is not one of them," a Field Entertainment declared in a recent statement.

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