Joel Zimmerman, better known to the world as curmudgeonly EDM star Deadmau5, has a cat. That cat’s name is Meowingtons. Since being adopted in 2010, the famous Meowingtons has been featured on album art and merchandise, has had a compilation and a tour named after him, and has inspired the first-ever headphones designed specifically for cats. And now, as Billboard reports, Meowingtons has become the center of a legal battle between Deadmau5 and Meowingtons.com, an online store that sell cat-themed apparel and gifts.
You see, when Deadmau5 tried to trademark the name “Meowingtons” last year, his application was rejected. He discovered that the name was also being used by Meowingtons.com, which is run by a Florida woman named Emma Bassiri. Deadmau5 believes that she chose the name because she’s a longtime Deadmau5 fan, and now he’s petitioning the United States Patent And Trademark Office to cancel her trademark so he can establish his own.
“This action arises out of Meowingtons LLC’s blatant attempts to exploit for its own commercial benefits the iconic “MEOWINGTONS” mark of internationally-renowned and respected progressive electronic music artist and producer, Joel Zimmerman,” attorney Irene Lee writes in the petition. “As a result of Deadmau5s fame, his cat — whom he named and is commonly referred to as ‘Prof. Meowingtons,’ ‘Prof. Meowingtons, PhD,’ and ‘Meowingtons’ — has become widely recognized in his own right and gained substantial fans and followers on social media.”
Deadamu5 is claiming that the site’s “unauthorized use of the MEOWINGTONS mark has already caused actual confusion in the marketplace, chilling [Deadmau5]’s licensing program and depriving [Deadmau5] of the ability to control the use of its valuable intellectual property.” To regain the trademark, he’s using the concept of first use, arguing that while the online store didn’t launch until 2014, he’s been using the Meowingtons mark since at least 2011. You can read the whole claim here, and check out some cute pics of Meowingtons (the cat, not the site) below.
UPDATE: Meowingtons.com has fired back. Emma Bassiri, the creator of the online retailer, has filed a lawsuit of her own in Florida federal court, suing for trademark infringement and unfair competition and asking the court for a declaration that she has senior use and priority right to the disputed trademark. In her complaint, Bassiri says that she launched the brand in 2014 because she saw “massive opportunities in businesses that target the underserved demographic of cat owners and cat enthusiasts” and saw that Meowingtons.com was available. She also says that Deadmau5’s claims that she is a longtime fan of his are false and damaging to her business and reputation, which, ouch.
“The act of naming your pet animal is not protected by the trademark laws of any country of which I am aware,” a spokesman for Bassiri says in a statement. “The mouse (Zimmerman) is clearly the copycat in this case, and our legal team is confident that Ms. Bassiri, a creative and hardworking entrepreneur who has built a successful online retailing business, Meowingtons.com, inspired by her love of cats, will prevail as the rightful and sole owner of the mark ‘Meowingtons.'”
In response to the complaint, Deadmau5’s attorney sent following statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “Deadmau5 has been extremely generous and attempted to resolve this matter amicably. However, as demonstrated by their legal action, they have no intention to address and remedy their intentional infringement and now attempt to extort and deprive our client of his rights and we will take all available measures to protect and enforce his rights.”
Deadmau5 also sent a statement of his own, promising a long legal battle ahead. “From the very beginning I was working to find a way to resolve this situation amicably,” he says. “Now I am forced to litigate this woman out of existence. Bye bye Emma Bassiri. I am going to protect the trademark I have been using since 2011.”