A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Medieval Times against its employee union last year, accusing the group of trademark infringement over its name and logo.
In an opinion released on Thursday, the judge said the restaurant chain failed to prove that the union, called Medieval Times Performers United, causes “confusion” among consumers and creates the impression that the union is in any way supported by the company.
“The court concludes that there is no plausible likelihood of confusion,” wrote Judge William J. Martini of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.
When the company filed its lawsuit against the group in October 2022, it was widely mocked by union supporters on social media. The union accused Medieval Times of trying to silence it through litigation and filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
Medieval Times argued that the union had stolen its medieval symbolism and devalued its brand.
“The elements of the Medieval Times Performers logo (i.e., castle, swords, text in ancient script) all resemble elements of the Medieval Times trademark and medieval decoration, which are clearly intended to evoke the unique image of Medieval Times,” the company claimed.
However, Martini noted that consumers are unlikely to associate the union with the company through the logos.
“Although both use the colors red and yellow in some fashion (in the logos and costumes), ‘Medieval Times’ is written in different stylized fonts and colors,” Martini wrote in its statement, first reported by Bloomberg Law. “The Medieval Times sign is written in yellow or red font, as opposed to the [union] logo, which is written in black font.”
“Overall,” he added, “neither side-by-side comparison nor the overall impression is confusingly similar.”
Instead, he said the union’s use of Medieval Times’ name in its own name served a logical purpose: “to identify the union as Medieval Times employees”.
The lawsuit is part of a larger battle between Medieval Times and its union, which has been pushing for higher wages and stricter safety standards at the company’s castles.
The knights, squires, actors and grooms at the Medieval Times site in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, were the first to unionize last year. They were soon followed by their colleagues at the castle in Buena Park, California. The company has nine castles in the US and one in Canada.
Although they use the name Medieval Times Performers United, the workers are represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists, a union that also includes the Radio City Rockettes and the performers at Disneyland. The AGVA called the Medieval Times trademark lawsuit a “grotesque attempt to retaliate against workers who have exercised their legally protected right to form a union and bargain collectively”.
Workers at both the Lyndhurst and Buena Park sites are trying to negotiate initial contracts with the company. Workers at Buena Park have been on strike since February, accusing Medieval Times of retaliation and other unfair labor practices.
Although the trademark case was dismissed, Medieval Times managed to shut down the union’s TikTok account by filing an intellectual property complaint with the social media giant. NLRB prosecutors recently filed a complaint against Medieval Times over the TikTok ban, alleging that the company violated labor-law by trying to silence employees.