Texas Trademark Lawyer Tamera Bennett

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SUGARLAND PARTNERSHIP DISPUTE

By Tamera H. BennettAugust 11, 2008

Update November 17, 2010: Sugarland members and former group member Kristen Hall reached an undisclosed settlement in the pending litigation.  Read more from Billboard.

Also of note is the status of the trademark for SUGARLAND, registration number 2747326.  The two current members of the band timely filed an Affidavit of Continued Use for the mark, but did not include Kristen Hall as a current owner.  A post-registration office action was issued and a response should have been filed by October 26, 2010.  I cannot find a response in the TESS/TDR system.  No assignment was reflected in the USPTO assignment database.  Was not filing a timely response an oops?

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Read The Amended Complaint

On August 7, 2008, Kristen Hall, founding member of the country music group Sugarland, filed a lawsuit against current band members Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush alleging breach of the partnership agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, and a duty to account for her share of the partnership profits.

Hall did co-write every song on the group's first album. She left the group in January 2006 to "concentrate on songwriting." Or so the press reported at the time of her leaving.

The current Sugarland Duo of Nettles and Bush secured a double platinum album in November 2006 for the album "Enjoy The Ride." Nettles also had a number one duet with Jon Bon Jovi for "Who Says You Can't Go Home."

Hall alleges in the lawsuit that she is entitled to continue to share in one-third of the profits after her departure from the group. It will be interesting to see how this works out. The complaint does not produce a written partnership agreement, so the dispute will be resolved in accordance with Georgia partnership law. The key to a partnership is that every partner agrees to share profits and losses equally. In this case, Hall has not been sharing in the losses/expenses of the partnership, so why should she be entitled to a full one-third of the profits?

There may be some amount she should continue to receive, but not one-third. Hall will continue to be paid on any songs she co-wrote, whether or not she receives any settlement related to her partnership interest.

It is an interesting note that the trademark SUGARLAND is filed in the name of all there original band members. Part of Hall's complaint deals with the fact that the trademark is continuing to be used without any accounting to her as a co-owner of the trademark.

Lesson Learned: Have a written partnership agreement that sets up what happens when a partner leaves or the band dissolves.

UDPATE 2/4/09: Full Sail folks.... getting lots of traffic from you guys.  Can somebody post or email me with information on how you are using this post in your course studies.  Thanks!

UDPATE 5/12/09: Just an update that this case is still in the discovery phase and no substantive papers have been filed. Looks like depositions are about to gear up.