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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. v. Gentile Productions

134 F.3d 749 (1998)

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. v. Gentile Productions

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

134 F.3d 749 (1998)

Facts

In 1988 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation built the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (collectively, the museum) (plaintiffs) in Cleveland, Ohio. The distinctive museum building was designed by architect I. M. Pei. In 1996 photographer Charles Gentile (defendant) began selling posters featuring a photograph of the museum through his production company, Gentile Productions (defendant). The museum filed a lawsuit in federal district court against Gentile, claiming that Gentile had infringed its trademark over the building design. The museum reasoned that through Gentile’s use of the photograph of the museum building, consumers would be led to believe that the posters were produced by the museum. To support its claims, the museum highlighted the fact that it had sold merchandise featuring photographs and drawings of the museum building, including posters, since 1993. That merchandise utilized a variety of photographs and drawings that highlighted different features and angles of the building’s design. The district court found that the public connected the museum to the building design, giving the museum a trademark over the building design, and preliminarily enjoined Gentile from selling his posters. Gentile appealed, arguing that the museum had not used photographs of its building consistently enough to create a distinct commercial identity.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ryan, J.)

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