The owners of Flora-Bama Lounge filed a federal lawsuit in California last week claiming the MTV reality show “Floribama Shore” infringes upon its trademark and damages its brand.
Allegedly, producers for the show inquired about using Flora-Bama as a filming location as early as January 2017, but by February, Flora-Bama indicated it was not interested. Flora-Bama was alerted “months later that a show produced by 495 Productions and bearing a confusingly similar and phonetically identical name was set to air on MTV.”
“Floribama Shore” follows a cast of eight young adults who live together in Panama City throughout the course of filming and indulge in “binge drinking, public urination and bathroom brawls,” according to the complaint.
In October 2017, Flora-Bama sent a cease-and-desist demand letter to MTV parent company Viacom, informing the defendants “of the extensive and irreparable harm that would occur if Defendants proceeded with their infringing behaviors.”
Viacom objected, and since, MTV has aired a total of 34 new episodes, most recently in February. Titles in the series include “Plunger Envy,” “Drunken Words; Sober Thoughts,” “Psycho-ass Beach” and “Meet The Buttses.” On June 11, MTV announced it would air a third season of the show, filmed in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In addition to its state and federally registered trademarks, the complaint also establishes Flora-Bama’s unique history in the area, having grown “from a local establishment” after its founding in 1964 to a “national and international entertainment icon” today. Noting it has been graced by “many distinguished musicians, athletes and other celebrities” over the years, the complaint also emphasizes the venue’s exposure from Kenny Chesney’s “Flora-Bama-Jama” concert in 2014, which was televised live to millions of households nationwide by CMT, another Viacom subsidiary.
“Defendants were familiar with Flora-Bama long before they ‘greenlit’ their new show,” the complaint states. “Since Oct. 31, 2017 … members of the public and Flora-Bama’s customers have been confused and deceived by the marketing, promotion and broadcast of Defendant’s television show.”
The eight-count complaint demands a jury trial and seeks damages in excess of $75,000, “including but not limited to the cost of corrective advertising, disgorgement of Defendants’ profits, payment of licensing fees and royalties and any other appropriate damages, including punitive damages, together with prejudgment interest.”
In 2017, local officials responded to the confusion with concern. Gulf Shores spokesperson Grant Brown said, “Any kind of portrayal of our region and our area being anything but a family-friendly destination goes against what we’ve worked so hard for years to overcome and the negative portrayal of the state of Alabama community.”
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said, “The cities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores along with the South Alabama region hold dear our traditional family values. We are a family-friendly vacation destination having absolutely nothing in common with what [‘Floribama Shore’] represents.”
Viacom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
John Mullen contributed to this story.
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