Circus owner sues Kid Rock for using ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ slogan

FILE PHOTO:    Head clown Davis Vassallo performs during the last show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York
FILE PHOTO: Head clown Davis Vassallo performs during the last show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

December 23, 2017

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – The company that owns the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which for years had dubbed itself the “Greatest Show on Earth,” filed a lawsuit accusing singer Kid Rock of using the slogan unlawfully.

Feld Entertainment, the production company that owns the longtime circus show and associated intellectual property, said in a lawsuit filed Friday that singer Robert Ritchie, known professionally as Kid Rock, and Live Nation Entertainment were infringing the circus’ “celebrated and valuable” trademark by using the slogan on the singer’s upcoming U.S. concert tour without permission.

The company, in the lawsuit filed on Friday in U.S. district court in Tampa, charged trademark dilution and infringement, unfair competition, injury to business reputation and unjust enrichment.

“We have authorized licensees for Ringling Bros. and The Greatest Show On Earth, but Kid Rock is not one of them,” Feld general counsel Lisa Joiner said in a Friday statement.

Among Feld’s licensees are restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, telecommunications provider MetroPCS [METRRW.UL] and nonprofit Easterseals, according to the lawsuit.

Representatives for Kid Rock and Live Nation did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

The company said it had contacted Kid Rock and Live Nation repeatedly to ask that they stop using the slogan but was ignored.

The lawsuit asked the court to stop the unauthorized usage of the slogan in connection with Kid Rock’s tour and merchandise, and award Feld profits derived from the slogan’s use and triple unspecified damages.

In May, Feld Entertainment ended its storied Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus show in New York after nearly 150 years of showcasing animals, clowns and acrobats to millions.

The finale came a year after the company bowed to pressure from animal rights activists and agreed to stop using elephants as its featured attraction in its performances, which it said affected ticket sales amid high operating costs.

Feld earned more than $50 million annually in the last five years from goods and services sold under the trademark, according to the lawsuit.

Kid Rock, who also included the concert slogan on his Twitter profile, will kick off his 2018 nationwide tour on Dec. 31 in Kansas City, Missouri, according to his website.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Ben Klayman and Steve Orlofsky)

  • 🐯 TigerBear 🐻

    You’re no longer a show let alone the greatest show on earth, but this is one way to grab your last gasping 15 minutes of fame. Too bad….you just soiled the good memories of your show with your lawsuit, and thats what we’ll all remember in the end! Sad, truly sad!

  • Uncle R

    Just another ‘case’ of nitpicking.

  • No Mas

    How will this “owner” prove damages when the business is CLOSED! IP is non issue…

  • Daniel Shays

    Kid just needs to change the name to the greatest show in the universe.

  • Mr. Maga

    man, i sure wish i’d gotten rights to the phrase, “THAT’S RACIST.” i’d be a ba-jillionaire!

  • Brad

    They’re all wrong, greatest show on earth is our elected senators and representatives in Washington. Wait, maybe they are more of a comedy show.

  • KaliforniaKook

    Wow, guys. It doesn’t matter that they are no longer the greatest show on earth. Intellectual property rights are enshrined in our Constitution. Companies that go out of business frequently license their IP properties to other companies. these are valuable resources. Doesn’t even matter if they were never the “Greatest Show On Earth” – it is their slogan, and they own the rights to it. Kid Rock doesn’t stand a chance legally.
    It’s only three pages, people! Read the Constitution! Greatest political document ever written, and no one’s comments below indicate they have read the thing. It’s concise! It’s beautiful! It’s not an abomination like ACA.

  • Biform25

    He’s not competing with the failed circus.
    Frivolous case.

  • No Mas

    um… Im pretty sure the Greatest Show on Earth closed tents, so ….. what would they gripe about now??? oh free money for using a slogan of a dead company??????????????
    Go pound sand….. lol

  • phicrappazappa

    If I could only trademark “The Year’s Best Movie”. Cha-ching!

  • WTF

    Feld Entertainment is false adverting on the greatest show on Earth.When they produce no show, how can they have the greatest. I think they lost that bragging rights when they quit the business

  • …remain calm and return fire

    The idiot should be sending KR ad money instead of suing him.

  • Politically Incorrect

    I’ll bet the guy shown above has young boys buried underneath his basement floor.

  • grandmother5

    This beyond ridiculous. So if I go to a movie or a concert and then say that was the “greatest show on earth” that I have been to. The now closed, out of business circus could sue me? Lord have mercy.

  • Rick Williams

    I bought the Album- lyrics are “welcome to the greatest- love you when you hate us- welcome to the greatest F*cking show on earth.” pretty sure neither Barnum nor Bailey ever said that.

  • Andrew Jackson’s Ghost

    Another institution in this country attacked by the left and this time successfully. They should be ashamed of themselves. Very sick, unhappy people who want everyone else to be as miserable as they are.

  • Liberius Lucanus

    So instead of suing animal rights extremists for harassment that bought your business down you are going to sue someone for a phrase they could arguably win saying they meant the greatest Rock’ show on earth? This will loose no matter how many years they drag this through the mud trying to make some last minute cash for in my opinion is a quitter to begin with…..

  • LIZARDMANSC52

    Seems to me that since Kid Rock isn’t using “Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey” he’s in the clear to call his tour whatever he likes… It’s like Macy’s claiming that it has exclusive rights to “Department Store”.

  • Altha Fl

    PT Barnum is rolling in his grave over the destruction of the “Greatest Show on Earth”. They truly were but they too caved to political correctness and animal rights groups like so many others. So Feld Entertainment go figure another way to earn your money. Maybe turn your boat around by going back to more like what Mr. Barnum was doing- see for yourself what people want to see and not see.

    • Johnny Mountain

      Torturing elephants is PC . Lol.

      • phicrappazappa

        Ignorance is bliss, and all that’s necessary to comment.

    • All American

      I remember going to the Circus in St Petersburg Fl. All of these people marching with signs regarding treatment of the elephants. I had a friend that was a retired performer with the Snow Leopards and she treated the cats like her own family. The animals were loved by many of the performers.

  • PlumbGenius

    Just add a hyphen or a semicolon and problem solved. LOL

  • Varangian Guard

    Not a big Fan of Kid Rock but I would likely see his show before I go back to the circus.
    When I want to objectify women, use profanity, listen to incoherent blather that doesn’t agree with my family or my own views, and want to look at animal excrement I just look at Congress. Rock and the RBBBC ain’t got schitt on Capital Hill

  • Automatic_Slim

    Kid Rock should counter sue for still calling themselves “The greatest show on earth”.

    • All American

      Right bc they no longer are

      • Automatic_Slim

        Excellent closing argument, Counselor.

  • All American

    Funny…I thought Kid Rock was relating to the Circus when he used the term??

    • Varangian Guard

      I thought that too when he used the publicity stunt of alluding to run for senate to replace Stabenow.
      But the way I feel about photo bombing Debbie downer Stabenow I would have voted for him before her regardless. It could’ve only been an improvement

  • Richard McMeekin

    Just got a call. Feld owns a Trademark on the phrase. Much stronger and legally binding than a copyright. Never mind off the wall speculation, Feld’s Trademark prevents Any Person or Corporation from using. in this case, the phrase “the greatest show on earth.”

    Armchair lawyers had better do a deep search before making themselves look ill-informed.

    • Automatic_Slim

      Damn it! Why do you smart guys always feel the need to ruin all of our fun?

  • Underestimated

    Hard to be the “Greatest Show on Earth” when you no longer have any shows and are basically out of business. I bet there are a lot of former business owners that will be looking to sue if this stands.

    • ComradeAdam

      As a slogan, the circus could make a case, but since the circus has no audience to begin with they would be hard pressed to show that a popular singer like Kid Rock using their slogan would hurt them. Anything can happen in court, but how would they sue for damages when they can’t prove any damage?
      But if Kid Rock is just making the claim that his show is the greatest and not using it as a slogan, the circus can’t even begin to make a case. You can’t restrict people’s speech by trademarking every word or phrase.

      • fatboy46

        OWNERSHIP!! if OWN the name- the rights- you own it, period. Elvis is dead.. they still license his products..

        • LadyScot

          Elvis trademarked his name. This is a phrase. Unless they have proof of ownership, which I don’t believe they do, then they have no case.

        • ComradeAdam

          They didn’t come up with the phrase, it’s not unique to them. It’s phrase that has been used going back millennia. So, they don’t own it. They have it trademarked, so no one else can use it as their slogan.
          Taylor Swift has the phrase ‘And I’ll write your name” trademarked, that doesn’t mean you can’t use that phrase, it’s common enough to be used in everyday speech. But you can’t name a song or product this. This phrase can’t be used to sell products. It’s the same in Kid Rock’s case, he can’t market his show with the slogan or name a song this, but he can use the words if he’s just making that statement.

    • fatboy46

      OWNERSHIP.. key word, Mr’ Underestimated’ or underinformed..OWNERSHIP.. You want to call your product an Edsel- you better license it with FORD. copyright infringement is not cheap- being stupid enough to ignore an attorney is classic for KidRock- he probably thought it was about his probation…

      • Underestimated

        I always find it interesting when someone insults me over a simple comment like this. What I posted is my opinion. I don’t care if you agree. I don’t care if the law agrees. My opinion is that whatever the status ends up being, a defunct company should no longer hold rights to things such as this. If the law says otherwise then it is my opinion that the law is wrong and should be changed. I would be polite and wish you a Merry Christmas but since you were so insulting and trollish…pi$$ 0ff.

      • wuzdat1

        Go grab yourself a case of candy bars and muzzle it.

  • Richard McMeekin

    In the 1970s I hosted Ringling Brothers’ Circus in our municipal facilities every year. The Feld’s copyrighted the phrase “the greatest show on earth.” I hope Kid Rock has DEEP pockets because he is riding a losing horse in this race.

  • MikkiDean

    Great, the group that killed the circus now money grabs every last cent due the corpse.

  • Robert Adams

    If the circus has folded, can it still be called “the greatest show on earth”? The holding company may have the rights to the slogan, but that should apply only to circuses. Similarly, with today’s media furor, why should the NYT be entitled to “all the news that’s fit to print”? In that it, has failed miserably.

    • Liberius Lucanus

      And it failed over and over and over and so on……..

      • Robert Adams

        Which failed? Yes the circus folded, but that was due to animal rights activists. The failure is the NYT believing it prints all the news fit to print.

        • All American

          Yes this is pretty much on the money$

      • Liberius Lucanus

        ??

    • All American

      Maybe was the greatest show on earth?? Earth to the no longer the greatest show on earth😂

    • fatboy46

      that has nothing to do with it. they still OWN the name- the slogan.. etc. It really is simple. Elvis is dead. try using his name or image without permission.

      • Robert Adams

        It’s one thing to use someone else’s given name, another to try to continue capitalizing on a failed venture. The slogan no longer fits.

  • nfcapitalist

    No… an out of work dishwasher and lawyer came up with this.