This article was also published in The Daily Journal.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently affirmed dismissal of a trademark infringement lawsuit against the producers of MTV Floribama Shore in MGFB Properties, Inc. v. Viacom Inc., 54 F.4th 670 (11th Cir. 2022) (the “Order”). The Court’s Order sought to strike a balance between the trademark protections of the Lanham Act and the artistic freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
At the heart of the MGFB dispute were two words, “Flora-Bama” and “Floribama.” They refer to a popular beach area that borders the states of Florida and Alabama. “Flora-Bama” is a federal trademark registered by MGFB Properties, Inc. (MGFB). Order at 673. Together with Flora-Bama Management LLC and Flora-Bama Old S.A.L.T.S. Inc. (collectively, “Trademark Owners”), MGFB owns and operates a relatively well-known lounge on the Florida-Alabama border, the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package and Oyster Bar (“Lounge”). Id. at 672. “Floribama” is included in the title of a reality series, MTV Floribama Shore, developed and produced by 495 Productions Holdings LLC, 495 Productions Services LLC, and ViacomCBS Inc. (“Viacom”) (collectively, “Producers”) as a spin-off of their reality series, Jersey Shore. Id. In the spin-off, the Producers wanted to feature a subculture of “young [S]outhern folks” who spend time on the Gulf of Mexico, “extending from the Florida panhandle into Alabama and Mississippi.” Id. at 674.”Flora-Bama” Trademark Owners sued Floribama Shore Producers for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act and Florida statutory and common law. Id. at 676. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Producers on all claims, and Trademark Owners appealed. Id. at 677. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the finding that MTV Floribama Shore passes the Rogers test. Id. at 683–84.
Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Affirms MTV Floribama Shore Does Not Infringe Flora-Bama Trademark