Legal Fashion Week: Court Denies Madonna’s Motion. Material Girl Lawsuit Goes to Trial

Come, come, come with me into the courtroom let’s see the legal action of LA Triumph vs. Madonna for Trademark Infringement unfold in my own rendition, as reported by BBC . This blogging platform does not permit formatting the script exactly the way it ought to be so just follow the story line.

How a Case Moves Through Court Recap

I have explained this before, but here we go for the benefit of new readers.

  1. Plaintiff files a lawsuit and serves the defendant notice of the lawsuit pending in court.
  2. The defendant responds, usually denying all claims and allegations by the Plaintiff, in a legal document filed with the court and served on the Plaintiff called an “Answer.”
  3. After that, it is investigation time aka “Discovery.” Everyone is gathering enough information to nail the other side at trial, prove their case and hopefully win.
  4. In the meantime, if you are the defense, you don’t necessarily want to wait all the way to trial to get rid of a case against you. It is costly and time consuming. Instead, you can make some strategic moves that can dispose of a case or some of the claims made against you in a lawsuit, if the court buys your argument. You do this through filing legal documents called “motions.” There are many forms of motions you can file. In our case, Madonna has filed a summary judgment motion to dispose of the Trademark infringement case filed against her by Retailer LA Triumph.We have seen summary judgment motions numerous times here on But, in the spirit of New York Fashion Week, let’s take a nice long strut down our New York Legal Fashion runway through my fashion law script of the recent victory against Madonna in this case.


(Fashion lawyers are seated at their respective tables waiting for the judge. Their clients are not present because they are not required to be present. We are a little ways before a jury trial so there is no jury.)


Remain seated and come to order. The Honorable Judge James Otero presiding.


Counsel for Madonna, your client filed this motion, please proceed with your arguments.


(Coughs. Continues typing)


Thank you your honor. Good morning may it please the court.


Good morning counsel.


Your honor, it is our position that there is simply no dispute as to any of the material facts in this case and accordingly, as a matter of law, this court should grant the defense its motion for summary judgment (dismiss this case). First, it is a fact that my client, Madonna, released “Material Girl” on January 30, 1985, through Sire Records.Even the Plaintiff admits this fact. Throughout the 80s, Ms. Madonna sold over $85million worth of merchandise bearing “Material Girl” at her concerts, evidencing she was the first and senior user of the trademark “Material Girl.”

The Plaintiff only filed its trademark and began using “Material Girl” in 1997 as a clothing label. This makes them a junior user. Because they are a junior user, Ms. Madonna has a superior right over the Plaintiff and can prevent the Plaintiff from using “Material Girl. Further, this court does not need to reach the second analysis on whether a trademark infringement actually occurred because that issue is rendered moot, leaving no issues of material facts to litigate (fight) at trial before a jury.


Counsel for Retailer Triumph LA, what is your response to that argument?


Your honor, the defense brought this motion. Therefore, they have the burden of proof to show there is no dispute as to the material facts in this case. The problem is, they have not and cannot meet their burden.

To address the Defense’s argument that the sale of merchandise in the 80s proved that the Defendant had used the trademark first, this argument is weak, at best. What it only proves is that the phrase had been used for merchandising but that is  not specific to clothing.

As the Defense correctly noted, my client’s trademark use for the Material Clothing label began in 1997. This use made my client the first and senior user with superior rights against subsequent users. Defendant Madonna has now proceeded to launch her clothing label with the same name only recently. There is a dispute as to the material facts since my client maintains such use is an infringement on its Trademark. Accordingly, the question is Defendant Madonna’s use a trademark infringement or not,  is  indeed a dispute as to a material fact that should permit this case to proceed to trial so the jury can answer this ultimate question. We respectfully ask that this court deny Defendant’s motion for Summary Judgment.


Very well. I have heard the arguments on both sides and I do agree with Plaintiff LA Triumph that “singing of a song does not create a trademark .” I am also unconvinced that when an artist sings and sells merchandise with a name of his/her song, that is enough to confer trademark rights. [The] defendants’ argument “fails as a matter of law.” Accordingly, this case will proceed to trial.

The Court is Adjourned.

(Judge’s gavel strikes wooden sound block)



What is left now is settlement negotiations as both parties prepare for trial.

BBC has the full story.