‘Cause we are living in a material world!

In 1985 Madonna set the pop music world alight with her song “Material Girl”.  The song captured the materialism of the 1980s and is so associated with Madonna that, even 25 years later, she is still referred to around the world as “the Material Girl”.

It seemed like a no-brainer for Madonna and her company Material Girl Brand to sell clothing branded with “Material Girl” on it.  However fashion outfit LA Triumph had other ideas and commenced proceedings against her, arguing that by doing so, she was infringing their registered trade mark in “Material Girl” which they had used since 1997. We blogged about Madonna’s earlier legal misadventures here.

Madonna’s lawyers were clearly outraged by the attack, and brought a motion for summary judgment.  After all, she is the Material Girl, she had a hit song in 1985 and, during the 1980s, she sold US$85 million worth of promotional paraphernalia, much of which had the word “Material Girl” emblazoned on it.

Sadly for all fans of 80s pop, the motion was denied for the following reasons:

  1. The mere fact that Madonna sung a song called “Material Girl” was not sufficient to create a trade mark, or grant her priority over the LA Triumph trade mark.
  2. The sale of clothing with the words “Material Girl” on it did not necessarily amount to use as a trade mark.  The court found that there were issues surrounding the facts of the sale, whether the use of Material Girl was use as a trade mark or to promote the Madonna song, and in any event, such use was limited to use on concert-style paraphernalia, not on clothing in general.

This matter will now go to trial before a jury.  A copy of the decision denying summary judgment is available here.  If you would rather listen to the song then read the decision, a link to the song is here.

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