It is absolutely impossible to claim to be a Hip Hop fan and not have a clear understanding of who the Wu-Tang Clan is and what the group has meant to Hip Hop over the years. The Wu-Tang Clan is easily one of the top five rap groups of all time. In fact, one of their members, Method Man, is on my top 5 rappers of all-time list. I simply love his flow and persona. One of the group’s leaders and founders, RZA, has recently announced that he is filing a lawsuit opposing trademark infringement by a dog walking company in Brooklyn by the name of Woof-Tang Clan.
The lawsuit was actually filed on November 15th and it highlights the long and prevalent history of the “Wu” (no need to record the rest of the name, that is how prevalent the Wu-Tang brand is). The suit points to the appearance of the trademark on various services and goods and how it has been used to foster goodwill. Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that the Wu-Tang trademark is directly correct to RZA’s personal brand and represents a part of his personal identity.
Woof-Tang is owned by Marty Cuatchon, who filed for the trademark application on June 8th of this year. What makes this interesting is that Marty’s company has sold T-shirts on its website with references to Wu-Tang rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard debut album. The famous cover of that album was slightly tweaked but anyone who knows the group and is familiar with ODB’s work, world recognize the image. There was also another shirt had an augmented version of De La Soul’s album, 3 Feet High and Rising. Both shirts and all associated images have since been removed from the website.
From the outside looking in, it would be difficult not to draw the conclusion that the owner of Woof-Tang is looking to capitalize on the popularity of Wu-Tang, especially in areas like Brooklyn. Brooklyn, like Harlem and other historically Black boroughs in New York City has been gentrified, driving many of the traditional residents out making room for more upscale residents. It is this gentrification that opens up opportunities for businesses like Woof-Tang, and RZA and others who have a strong presence and history in Brooklyn find it ironic.
The lawsuit filed by RZA claims that the trademark for Woof-Tang is very similar to that of the Wu-Tang Clan. According to RZA, the similarity expands through sound, sight, and commercial impression. This is definitely not a situation in which RZA is reaching and there is not really anything there. There are a lot of similarities and there is evidence that the Cuatchon is actually purposely using the Wu-Tang’s image, popularity, and impact to increase the exposure of his on the brand. There is enough similarity in this that RZA has a reasonable concern that the infringement upon the Wu-Tang Brand could literally cause damage to the brand.
It is not clear how successful this lawsuit would be, but it appears that RZA is prepared to fight the application filed by Cuatchon as far as the law will allow.