I don’t shop at Hot Topic because I’m not a teenage girl, but I’ve heard that the stores exist. But I am old enough to remember Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at the height of their fame in the early ’80s. But now two generations are colliding in a mess of tee shirts, push-up bras, and nail polish as the rock star’s record label sues the retailer over the Blackheart brand.
Jett founded Blackheart Records back in 1980 when no other labels would pick up her self-titled debut album. The label continues to this day, putting out records by Jett and other artists, and selling related apparel on the company’s website.
Meanwhile, Hot Topic is a chain of more than 600 retail stores selling clothes to what I would grudgingly describe as “kids today, with their hair and stuff.” It has several brands, including one that just happens to be called — you guessed it (I hope) — Blackhearts, which runs the gamut from leggings to eyeliner to “hair chalk” to lipstick. This brand is also the basis of a retail test of five Blackheart stores.
But the lawsuit, filed earlier this week in a Manhattan federal court, claims this is more than just two clothing lines with the same name and audience. Blackheart Records states that Hot Topic reached out to the company in February 2010 about designing and distributing clothing and other merchandise featuring the Blackheart brand. Hot Topic has several deals with artists for selling band-related merch in its stores.
It was after speaking with Blackheart Records, claims the lawsuit, that Hot Topic decided to launch its own similarly named clothing line.
Hot Topic tells Bloomberg that it’s surprised by the suit and “we are confident in our rights to use the Blackheart brand name… We have 11 different registered trademarks with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the use of the Blackheart brand for retail stores, apparel, lingerie, accessories, cosmetics and more.”
Hot Topic maintains that the record label has previously done nothing to contest these trademark filings. The company rep tells Bloomberg that Hot Topic did approach Blackheart Records about acquiring Blackheart.com, and claims that the record label “never indicated a problem with our use of the brand name.”