U.S. District Court Judge Dean R. Pregerson has denied RATT drummer Bobby Blotzer’s latest application for a temporary restraining order against the band’s original bassist, Juan Croucier, explaining that he isn’t convinced either party owns the group’s trademark.
Blotzer and RATT guitarist Warren DeMartini are the only remaining shareholders in WBS, Inc., the company which manages the business and operations related to RATT. In its request for a TRO, WBS — with Blotzer acting as both chairman of the board and president — claimed that Croucier formed his own band in early 2015 called “Juan Croucier’s RATT’s” and began using the RATT logo “on all advertisements, web sites, merchandise, marquees, fliers, and record jackets… Croucier also began referring to himself as ‘The Other Voice of RATT,’ even though… he was never the lead singer of RATT.”
Blotzer alleged in his latest application, which was filed on April 4, that “WBS attempted, in good faith, three different times (August, September, and October of 2015) to get Croucier to end his infringing use of the Marks. WBS even gave him the option to refer to himself as ‘formerly of’ or ‘former member of” RATT. However, Croucier ignored these requests and continued his infringing ways.”
According to Blotzer’s resuest for a TRO, he and Croucier “began to engage in good faith settlement negotiations around the beginning of March, and settlement was a distinct possibility. However, on March 3, 2016 it came to [Blotzer‘s] attention through an interview with [Croucier] that [Croucier] had formerly changed the name of his band to ‘RATT’s Juan Croucier‘. This change made [Croucier‘s] use of Mark a pronoun rather than an adjective to give reference to [Croucier‘s] former career. What’s more, on March 14, 2016, it came to [Blotzer‘s] attention that [Croucier] had a show at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles scheduled for a few weeks before RATT was scheduled to play Beverly Hills and Pasadena. Upon further investigation, [Blotzer‘s] counsel found that the flier being used by [Croucier] for his show at the Whiskey was using the RATT stylized design trademark and service mark. Moreover, [Blotzer] also found that [Croucier‘s] website continues to have the offending, counterfeit marks with links and advertisements for the Whiskey show.”
When questioned about it, “[Croucier‘s] counsel disassociated his client from the Whiskey flier and represented that he was going to speak with the Whiskey to get the flier changed,” Blotzer’s application states. “With regard to [Croucier‘s] website, [Croucier‘s] counsel stated [Croucier] did not want to change the website for fear of an evidentiary sanction based on destruction of evidence. [Blotzer] proposed making changes to the website but having [Croucier] sign a declaration of its prior images. [Blotzer] never heard back from [Croucier], and the flier with the Marks is still in circulation for [Croucier‘s] show on April 29, 2016 and the website is still active with counterfeit marks.”
In his opposition to Blotzer’s application for a temporary restraining order, Croucier wrote: “This action is part of an attempt by RATT’s drummer Robert Blotzer to perpetrate a fraud in order to unilaterally take and use the trademark ‘RATT‘ despite his being at most a partial owner of that mark.
“Juan Croucier is a founding member of RATT who co-wrote and performed on some of the band’s biggest hits, sang lead vocal parts on RATT songs, (e.g., ‘You Think You’re Tough’ and ‘Lack Of Communication’) and was the only member of the band that could sing many of the demanding harmony parts sung in the studio and all of the dominant high harmony parts during live shows. As such, he has been known as ’the Other Voice of RATT‘ and has been using that phrase on the cover page of juancroucier.com since 2007 or 2008. Mr. Croucier is a member the RATT Music Partnership with other band members that owns the publishing rights in the songs. Notably, Blotzer is not a member of the RATT Music partnership, as he was not involved in writing the band’s hit songs — he just played drums.”
Croucier continued: “While there were periods during RATT’s history that certain Partners did not tour with the band, the 4 surviving original Partners kept coming back to RATT and ultimately played together through its final tour between 2012 and 2014, with the final show being January 24, 2014 at Wild Horse Pass Casino in Chandler, AZ. Following its last show, [singer Stephen] Pearcy took time to deal with the death of his twin sister and then went back to performing with his band ‘Stephen Pearcy And His Ratt Bastards,’ Blotzer formed a RATT tribute band called ‘Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience,’ and Croucier formed a new band called ‘Ratt’s Juan Croucier.’ Unable to attract much interest in ‘Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience,’ Blotzer announced in September in 2015 that his new band would begin touring under the RATT name.”
Juan added: “Croucier is using the Marks in a manner that is fair, appropriate, and not likely to cause consumer confusion. And as a co-owner of the Marks, Croucier is entitled to use the Marks exactly as he is using them.
“Croucier is entitled to say that he is RATT’s Juan Croucier because he is. Not only is he a founding member of the band, a co-author of many of its hit songs, and a member of the RATT Music Partnership, but he played with the band during both its success through the 1980s and through its final 2012- 2014 tour. Mr. Croucier is thus still part of the band, is entitled to say that he is ‘RATT’s Juan Croucier,’ and is entitled to tour as such.
“Croucier’s use stands in stark contrast to the use of the Mark by Blotzer, who is improperly holding his new cover-band out as ‘RATT.’ While Mr. Blotzer may not like the competition from his former band-mate, that does not give him (let alone WBS) the right to stop Croucier from performing RATT songs that he wrote and has every right to perform under a band that he is in no way holding out as RATT.”
Pregerson denied Blotzer’s request on April 7, finding “given the uncertainty regarding ownership of the marks, Plaintiff has not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.”
The judge previously denied Blotzer’s application for a TRO in the case in October 2015 and ordered the parties to mediation.
DeMartini filed a lawsuit in September 2015 against Blotzer, claiming that the drummer is falsely advertising his “tribute band” as the real thing. That dispute is still pending in California state court.