United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Intellectual Property — copyright infringement
It does not violate the copyright of a rap group named Phifty-50 for a movie producer to title a movie “50/50.”
“The phrase 50/50 or a sound-alike variant (50-50, fifty-fifty, fifty/fifty) has been in use as the title of intellectual property for a long time. Wikipedia lists eight films with that title, opening in 1916, 1925, 1972, 1981, 1982, 1992, 2004, and 2011. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ 50/50. Six of these movies predate Eastland Music’s use. The 1982 film is by and about a rock band. Wikipedia lists three TV shows with that title, plus an episode of a fourth show. It also lists three songs whose titles contain the phrase 50/50. One of these is Frank Zappa’s 1973 song ‘50/50’. Then there’s ‘50/50 Luv’ released in 1995 by the rap group B.G. Knocc Out & Dresta. And Wikipedia’s list is not comprehensive, for it omits anything by the rap duo Phifty-50; doubtless other examples also are missing. If there is any prospect of intellectual property in the phrase 50/50, Eastland Music is a very junior user and in no position to complain about the 2011 film. Phifty-50 entered a crowded field, and its rights are correspondingly weak and narrow. See 2 McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition §§ 11.85–.87 (4th ed. 2012).”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Lindberg, J., Easterbrook, J.