Southern University's Dancing Dolls & DD4L Trademark Battle
Updated: Jun 19, 2022
The "tea" has been all over the news, what is going on between Southern University Dancing Dolls and Dancing Dolls For Life's (DD4L) owner Dianna Williams? Is there really a trademark battle going on between the two? Did Southern University's Dancing Dolls lose their right to even use the name "Southern University's Fabulous Dancing Dolls?"
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design "mark" that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Think the big brands, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi? They are KNOWN by their #trademarks.
Southern University is well known for it's blue and gold colors, band, and dance team. Yes, Southern University's name is trademarked much like other colleges and universities. Southern University First Dancing Dolls began dancing around 1969, follow me, I'm going somewhere with this.
1A vs. 1B Trademark Applications
In the trademark world, there are two types of applications that you can file: a 1A application and a 1B application.
A 1A application is for owners seeking to register a mark that is currently in use in commerce. A 1B application is for owners who intend to register a mark to use in commerce (they haven't started to use the mark).
Dianna Williams and DD4L
On September 30th, 2021, Dianna filed a 1A application to use the mark "DD4L". It's important to note that the trademark application was filed with "Legal Zoom". Now, you all see why I caution against using those programs. Dianna alleged that the mark "DD4L" was first used as early as August 20, 2001. She also alleges that the mark was first used in commerce since April 2002. On April 15th, 2022, Dianna had to pay another attorney to act as attorney of record for her application, more than likely due to opposition faced from Southern University.
On May 20th, 2022, Dianna filed a 1B application to use the mark "Fabulous Dancing Dolls" for entertainment purposes, namely cheerleading. On May 25th, 2022, Dianna withdrew and abandoned that application. May 23, 2022, Dianna filed two 1A applications for the marks "DD4L" and "Dancing Dolls". In those applications, Dianna filed for trademarks to use "DD4L" and "Dancing Dolls" for retail apparel sales only.
Southern University Dancing Dolls
Southern University reportedly sent Dianna "cease and desist letters" informing her that she was infringing upon their trademark rights by using "dancing dolls" and confusingly similar marks. On May 24th, 2022, Southern University filed a 1A application to register the mark "Fabulous Dancing Dolls". The mark was formed for the purpose of:
"Entertainment in the nature of dance performance, entertainment services in the nature of live visual and audio performances, namely, musical band, rock group, gymnastics, dance, and ballet performance."
Live, Abandoned, and Dead Marks
Dianna filed a 1B application for the mark "Dancing Dolls" on October 3rd, 2018. The application was abandoned on January 3rd, 2022. Which means, that there is no registered trademark for "Dancing Dolls" owned by Dianna Williams.
Dianna's three "live" applications for "DD4L" and "Dancing Dolls" are just that, pending applications. Upon a search of the trademark database, the applications have not been assigned to a USPTO Examining Attorney. Despite her social media statements, Mrs. Williams does not have any registered trademark of "Dancing Dolls" or anything similar.
Who Really Owns the Rights to "Dancing Dolls"?
Southern University has a registered trademark for the use of "Dancing Dolls". For, "entertainment in the nature of dance performances; Entertainment services in the nature of live visual and audio performances, namely, musical band, rock group, gymnastic, dance, and ballet performances."
Dianna is attempting to registered the trademark "DD4L" and "Dancing Dolls", under a different class, for the purposes of retail apparel sales. Being that Southern University has been using the terms "Dancing Dolls" and "Fabulous Dancing Dolls" since 1969, and already has a registered trademark, I'll let you, the reader, decide who is likely to prevail should this trademark dilemma continue.