Can you spot the weaknesses in this dumb musical lawsuit?

If you’re a connoisseur of casual dining, you may have encountered a restaurant chain called Ruby Tuesday. And yes, founder Samuel Beall III was a fan of the Rolling Stones, especially, we can assume, the song of that name released in 1966. Keith Richards wrote it about his then-girlfriend, Linda Keith.

Quick fact: The Rolling Stones had no recourse when it came to the name of the restaurant chain because song titles cannot be copyrighted or trademarked.

However, the name of a restaurant can.

Since the company’s founding in 1972, a number of bands have adopted the names Ruby Tuesday or Ruby Tuesdays with nary a peep from the Rolling Stones or the restaurant’s head office. Now, there’s a problem.

Ruby Tuesday (the restaurant chain with 540 locations and assets approaching $1 billion) is suing Ruby Tuesdays, a five-piece very broke band from Wollongong, Australia, with lifetime revenues of about $1,000, for $2 million.

They received a letter from a San Diego law firm called Mintz Levin. It reads in part:

While many artists pay tribute to other artists through imitation, when it comes to imitating famous trademarks, only Ruby Tuesday is entitled to the goodwill of its mark. In fact, the knowing adoption of a mark intending to play off a well-established mark is among the most egregious of trademark violations, warranting courts to apply the harshest of consequences.

Whoa. A bit heavy-handed, dude.

And it gets better. The company also demands that the band destroy all merch and other items that feature the name “Ruby Tuesdays.”

I have some questions:

  • What would possess the company to pursue such a crazy legal action?
  • How tone deaf can you be when it comes to a big corporation beating up on a little bitty band?
  • The name of the band is “Ruby Tuesdays”, not “Ruby Tuesday.” Doesn’t that count?
  • What does an indie band have in common with a company that sells burgers?
  • The band didn’t name itself after the restaurant chain. In fact, up until that letter arrived, they claimed never have ever heard of the place. Like the chain itself, it took its name from the Rolling Stones song. Therefore, does this really constitute “playing off the name” of the restaurant?
  • Although the restaurant’s appropriation of the song title is legal, adds a certain level of hypocrisy to the situation, doesn’t it?

The good news? There’s plenty, actually.

  • The band–headed up by a 33-year-old schoolteacher–is getting worldwide press as they fight back against the lawsuit.
  • They can’t keep their merch in stock.
  • People around the planet are laughing at the restaurant chain. And if they’re not laughing, they’re disgusted by this use of power against the powerless.
  • A lawyer has agreed to help out with the case.
  • They’ve timed the release of their debut album, Wooden Moon, just right. Talk about free publicity, right?

Godspeed, my friends.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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