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Karaoke company sues bar for copyright infringement

By Andrew Thomason | Nov 13, 2013

A karaoke company is demanding that an Illinois bar face the music to the tune of at least $200,000 for alleged trademark infringement.

North Carolina-based Slep-Tone Entertainment filed a suit Nov. 12 in federal court against Sellis Enterprises Inc., which operates Rocky Vanders Cafe & Bar in Prospect Heights, for allegedly using counterfeit or pirated materials at its karaoke events.

Rocky Vanders Cafe & Bar employs a karaoke operator to run events that consist of people choosing popular songs to sing for bar patrons, with the assistance of scrolling lyrics and prerecorded music, commonly known as karaoke.

Represented by Vivek Jayaram of the Jayaram Law Group in Chicago, Slep-Tone Entertainment alleges that the defendant’s karaoke operators used pirated, counterfeit karaoke accompaniment tracks in its karaoke shows, tracks that are trademarked by Slep-Tone Entertainment under the name Sound Choice.

The suit states that Slep-Tone Entertainment made Rocky Vanders Cafe & Bar aware that its karaoke operators were using pirated and counterfeit materials, but the bar refused to stop using the operators.

Furthermore, the plaintiff claims that the use of pirated or counterfeit karaoke accompaniment tracks wasn’t an isolated incident at Rocky Vanders Cafe & Bar, but were “instead regular activities undertaken over a long period of time, in some cases months.”

Slep-Tone Entertainment offered the defendant several ways to ensure it used karaoke operators that use only properly licensed materials, but Rocky Vanders Cafe & Bar declined, according to the suit.

The plaintiff contends that Rocky Vanders Cafe & Bar has the responsibility to control whether the company it hires for karaoke events uses pirated material or not, and by allowing the use of pirated materials at its karaoke shows, caused Slep-Tone Entertainment to lose royalties and other sources of revenue.

The hiring of a company by Rocky Vanders Cafe & Bar's that uses pirated karaoke material also causes other venues that put on karaoke events to hire companies that use pirated material, the suit asserts.

“As a direct result of the Defendant’s participation in the market for pirate karaoke, the Plaintiff has experienced significantly reduced sales of its legitimate products, as would-be purchasers of the Plaintiff’s legal products eschew those purchases in favor of obtaining counterfeit product at a greatly reduced cost” to compete with Rock Vanders Cafe & Bar, Slep-Tone Entertainment contends in its complaint.

Beyond financial loss, the plaintiff infers that the pirated karaoke accompaniments are generally of a poorer quality than what the plaintiff offers to paying clients, thus hurting its product's reputation.

Slep-Tone Entertainment’s complaint consists of two claims: trademark infringement and relief for unfair competition.

It is seeking all of the profits the defendants gained by using the pirated material, or statutory damages per trademark infringement, not to be less than $100,000.

Additionally, Slep-Tone Entertainment is seeking at least $100,000 for the defendant’s acts of unfair competition under federal statutes, damages for willful trademark infringement, and a preliminary and permanent injunction against the defendant for further use of pirated karaoke materials.


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