Nine days before the July 5 broadcast premiere of Mark Burnett’s “Rock Star: Supernova” on CBS, the three members of Orange County, California, punk trio Supernova — who formed back in 1989 and released four albums, including 2000′s Pop as a Weapon — filed a lawsuit against the show’s producers, charging trademark infringement.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Diego, names Mark Burnett Productions, Rockstar Entertainment Inc. and CBS Broadcasting as defendants, along with Tommy Lee, Jason Newsted and Gilby Clarke — the three future members of the group this season’s “Rock Star” is supposed to spawn and endow with a lead singer. After someone’s chosen to front the band, the foursome will eventually record and release fresh material before touring the nation, all under the Supernova moniker (see “Supernova To Tommy Lee’s ‘New’ Supernova: Hey, That’s Our Name!” ).
The suit filed by the original Supernova — bassist Art Mitchell, drummer Dave Collins and guitarist Jodey Lawrence, who joined the band in 1994 — seeks a jury trial, as well as the destruction of all “labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, containers, advertisements, electronic media and other materials bearing the Supernova mark.”
The band also wants the show’s producers to “publish clarifying statements that [the show is] not associated with [the punk band],” and is seeking punitive and compensatory damages, attorneys fees and the “profits and all damages sustained by [the band] due to [the] misuse of plaintiff’s Supernova mark.”
In addition, the filing requests that the show’s producers be prohibited from trademarking the Supernova name; the suit claims seven applications have been filed thus far for the band name, and another two for “Rock Star: Supernova.”
Supernova, who have booked several live gigs for August and are in the midst of recording an album they’d like to release before year’s end, claim in the suit that the “Rock Star” producers willingly ignored the fact that the Supernova name was and still is in use, and therefore, unavailable. The suit further alleges that “individuals within defendants’ own organizations informed defendants of plaintiff’s rights in the Supernova mark.”
Perhaps the strongest bit of evidence supporting that claim comes from Butch Walker, who the show’s producers recruited to co-write and produce the inaugural offering from the other, still-singer-less Supernova. In a MySpace message dated May 11, provided as an exhibit within the filing, Walker wrote, “I can’t believe those dudes chose your name. For the record, I tried to talk them out of it. I told them I had a CD by a band from back in the day called Supernova and they were retarded for [using the name]. They didn’t listen. Good on ya for making a stink about it.”
The Walker correspondence, according to the suit, “clearly illustrates defendants’ bad faith intent to willfully infringe plaintiff’s Supernova mark.” Upon learning that the show’s producers had decided on Supernova as the name for the band anchored by Lee, Clarke and Newsted, the original band “demanded, and continues to demand, that defendants cease all such infringing uses” of the name. But, “defendants continue to knowingly and deliberately infringe” on Supernova’s rights, which “has caused, and is likely to continue to cause, confusion and mistake among consumers as to source, sponsorship, and approval of defendants’ goods.”
In short, that passage says the original Supernova are concerned that people seeking their albums and merchandise might purchase the newer band’s instead.
The documents further allege that the producers’ use of the Supernova name will cut into the original Supernova’s future income, as it will intentionally interfere “with plaintiff’s business relationships,” thus causing the band to lose “prospective economic damages,” such as merchandising deals and offers to perform.
Calls to CBS for comment were not returned by press time. Likewise, the original Supernova’s attorney, John Mizhir, could not be reached for comment.