Medieval Times Files Trademark Lawsuit Against Newly-Formed Union

Vincent Jackson
Vincent Jackson

In a fascinating intersection of labor relations and trademark law, Medieval Times has sued a newly-formed union for improperly adopting and using its MEDIEVAL TIMES® trademark.   The case, filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on October 13, 2022, seeks an injunction against the Union—Medieval Times Performers United—for unauthorized misappropriation of the MEDIEVAL TIMES mark. 

Medieval Times (the employer) is a 40-year-old entertainment company with several castle locations in the United States that provide authentic medieval-themed “Dinner and Tournament” events for paying guests.  It is known for its unique 11th century-style castle structures (featuring drawbridges), and at its events guests are greeted by a royal family, participate in a knighting ceremony, watch jousting tournaments, eat authentic medieval cuisine, and meet the trained horses and falcons that participate in the show.  Medieval Times has appeared or been featured in numerous American television shows and films, including Friends, the Simpsons, the 2004 film “Garden State” starring Zack Braff, and even 1996’s underrated classic: “The Cable Guy,” starring Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Ben Stiller, and Janeane Garofalo as a Medieval Times Waitress.

Apart from the obvious similarities in the wording of the employer’s and the union’s marks, Medieval Times (the employer) further alleges that the Union has misappropriated distinctive and unique features of the employer’s brand.  This includes the employer’s stylized font, which is always displayed in red or yellow to evoke the middle ages; the use of an 11th century-style castle and crossed swords in its logo, and the prominent use of the colors red and yellow on the union’s website and marketing materials.  The union’s website additionally encourages visitors to get in touch with the union at its locations at the “castle in Lyndhurst, NJ” and at the “castle in Buena Park, CA”—references to the locations at which Medieval Times (the employer) operates its business. 

Given these similarities and risk of confusion between the two entities, Medieval Times (the employer) alleges that the union’s misuse of the mark could lead to the mistaken impression that the union is sponsored by the employer, which could lead employees to believe that the employer requires its employees to become members of the union.  The employer also alleges that the union’s misuse of its mark could lead to the misimpression that the employer endorses the union, which may subject the employer to otherwise unwarranted claims arising under the National Labor Relations Act.   

The union has responded that the trademark lawsuit is a “grotesque attempt to retaliate against workers for exercising their legally protected right to form a union and bargain collectively,” and that it will respond to Medieval Times’ “unlawful thuggery.”  Overblown rhetoric aside, the union made a careless mistake, and handed Medieval Times a claim by misappropriating the employer’s trademark.  One can imagine any number of medieval-themed terms the union could have adopted—guild, roundtable, brotherhood, etc.—that would have adequately served its purpose while not infringing upon the employer’s mark.

This will be an interesting case to watch to see if new law is made at the intersection of labor relations and trademark law.


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