Flora-Bama Rolls Tide in Florida Court

Flora-Bama co-owner John McInnis, featured in Business Alabama’s October 2012 “CEOs Who Break the Mold.” Photo by Matthew Coughlin

The Flora-Bama, the little landmark Alabama bar on the Gulf coast, will have its day in court against broadcast giant Viacom, following an Oct. 21 federal judge’s order that the trademark infringement case should be allowed to continue.

The bar owners, MGFB Properties, sued Viacom, saying its MTV television series named “Floribama Shore” infringed on the bar’s 55-year-old trademark name. Viacom argued that the bar owner’s complaint should be thrown out of court because legal precedent allows the usage under First Amendment rights.

The case precedent cited, said U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, “does not apply to ‘misleading titles that are confusingly similar to other titles.’ Whatever might be said when the actual facts are known, the complaint alleges facts sufficient to invoke the exception — and, more broadly, sufficient to state a claim on which relief can be granted.”

“The complaint alleges the plaintiffs’ mark ‘Flora-Bama’ traces its origin to the opening of the Flora-Bama Lounge near the Florida-Alabama line in 1964,” Hinkle recounted in his order. “The complaint alleges the mark has acquired a strong secondary meaning and has been used in a wide array of entertainment productions, including in the title of a television show. The complaint alleges the defendants have infringed the mark by titling their own television show ‘Floribama Shore,’ even though the show is set 125 miles from the Florida-Alabama line.”

The little Alabama bar that always could will have its day in court.

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