Hamilton band Arkells confronted by odd trademark claim

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Published December 1, 2021 at 8:13 pm

The Arkells appeared on BellMedia platforms on Friday when they were unveiled as the halftime performers for next month's Grey Cup in Hamilton. (BellMedia image)

The Arkells are laughing off a likely dubious trademark claim, a week and a half out from headlining the Grey Cup halftime show in Hamilton.

Evidently, the commercials on BellMedia channels hyping the band’s appearance on Dec. 12 has expanded their clout beyond its regular reach. The Arkells’ Twitter account shared that they were sent messages from someone named Ron Kells — as in “R. Kells” — arguing that the band’s name is too similar to theirs.

Written in allcaps, it reads, “My name is Ron Kells and we all have a problem with the name of your band and the rights to it please get a hold of me before the half time show goes on, seriously.”

A follow-up adds, “Y’all have notice THAT YOU DON’T HAVE PERMISSION TO DO THIS UNDER MY NAME.” The Grey Cup, which is named after an early 20th-century governor-general, is misspelled “Gray.”

Of course, legal and preferred names are not covered under trademark or copyright law in either the United States and Canada. And the band members, including frontman Max Kerman, adopted the name after living on Arkell Street in West Hamilton during the mid-aughts.

There are famous bands that are named after a living person. Perhaps most notably, the original lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd chose their name as a reference to their high-school phys-ed teacher, who was named Leonard Skinner.

It costs about $1,500 to $2,000 to trademark a band name in Canada, once a performer pays all the necessary fees in each province where they plan to bring their music to market. A search process usually determines if there are any potential conflicts.

In the 1990s, that led to units of works by the British band Bush being sold under the name “Bush X.” A 1970s-vintage band named Bush held the Canadian rights at that time.

In any event, the aggrieved Ron Kells has inspired a parody Twitter account.

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