Property Rights in “Californication”

Lynne Kiesling

Here’s an interesting development: one of my favorite bands, Red Hot Chili Peppers, are suing Showtime for calling their new show starring David Duchovny “Californication”:

“Californication is the signature CD, video and song of the band’s career, and for some TV show to come along and steal our identity is not right,” the band’s lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, said in a statement. …

The show features a character named “Dani California,” which is also the title of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song released in 2006, the lawsuit noted.

Sounds like a pretty straightforward open-and-shut case, right? The album came out in 1999, now it’s 2007, they used it first, right? Maybe:

In July 2007, Kapinos [the show’s creator and executive producer] told reporters at a Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills that he first heard the term in reference to Oregon.

“Apparently in the ’70s there were bumper stickers that said ‘Don’t Californicate Oregon,’ because Californians were coming up there, and I just thought it was a great, great title for this show,” said Kapinos.

Hmmmm … prior use?

So if you were a judge in this lawsuit, how would you decide? Is the name “Californication” now so irrevocably associated with Red Hot Chili Peppers that they should have a property right in the name? Or is it a generic enough term that it should not be associated solely with the band?

3 thoughts on “Property Rights in “Californication”

  1. I’m from Oregon and, to me, that word has been around for a long time. Its the slang equivalent of trying to patent the internet.

  2. That term was in use from at least the mid-80’s in Seattle.I can’t believe those idiots would try to act as if it was their invention. They should be fined for suing.

  3. I’ve heard “Californication” since well before 1999. The “Dani California” part of the case may not only have some merit, but may also help show that the show did rip off RHCP, even though the word “californication” is not new.

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