ViacomCBS wins appeal in 'Floribama Shore' trademark fight

ViacomCBS headquarters is pictured in New York. REUTERS/Kate Munsch
  • Viacom accused of copying beach bar's name for MTV reality show
  • 11th Circuit affirms decision to toss beach bar Flora-Bama Lounge's case

(Reuters) - Paramount Global's ViacomCBS Inc scored another win Tuesday in a trademark dispute over its MTV reality show "Floribama Shore," defeating an appeal by the Flora-Bama Lounge Florida beach bar and concert venue.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the 1st Amendment protected Viacom from Flora-Bama's trademark infringement lawsuit because MTV used "Floribama" in the title of an artistic work and did not deliberately mislead consumers.

Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Flora-Bama Lounge opened in 1964 near the state line between Florida and Alabama. MTV's "Floribama Shore," a reality show about 20-somethings in a Panama City Beach, Florida house, premiered in 2017 following the success of the network's "Jersey Shore."

The Flora-Bama's owners sued Viacom in 2019 for trademark infringement, arguing the show's name exploited the popular beach bar's goodwill and was likely to cause confusion.

Florida U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled for Viacom last year. Hinkle said the Flora-Bama's arguments were not strong enough to overcome the 1st Amendment's extra protection for artistic works from trademark claims.

The judge also said the marks are not similar in context, are used in different industries, and that Viacom chose the "Floribama" name to reflect its geographic setting, not to trade on the bar's popularity.

U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Hull, writing for a three-judge panel, agreed Tuesday that "Floribama Shore" was entitled to increased protection as the title of a work of art, and that the name of the show was not explicitly misleading under a heightened standard for trademark infringement.

The case is MGFB Properties Inc v. 495 Productions Holdings LLC, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-13458.

For MGFB: Bill Cash of Levin Papantonio Rafferty Proctor Buchanan O'Brien Barr & Mougey

For Viacom: Susan Kohlmann of Jenner & Block

Read more:

Viacom defeats Flora-Bama bar's trademark claims over MTV's 'Floribama Shore'

Viacom sued for trademark infringement over its 'Floribama Shore' TV show

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com