Law & Order With Celestial Entertainment
For those that have been following this metal news site over the last couple of months, you are surely to be aware of the controversial band name ownership dispute that has been raging between New York's long standing hardcore act Irate and California's I.R.A.T.E., who are skillfully managed by Jeff Totten of Celestial Entertainment for Project Independent. In my last interview, I gave NYC Irate a more than fair opportunity to speak their case before all of us and handle this heated situation in a civil manner, for their have even been threats of violence made against the west coast I.R.A.T.E., prompting the FBI to be informed of the escalating matter. I feel it is only right now to give Mr. Totten a chance to follow-up to what was said by NYC Irate, in concern with the overall debate. I personally think this is a strong lesson in the way the music business works and not how we want it to work for us.
Rocket: Thanks again for taking time out with me, Jeff. I know you're a real busy guy and have just finished up The Project Independent Tour. I wanted to give you the basic opportunity here to respond to the last interview that I conducted with Nando and Nick of the NYC Irate band.
Jeff: The following response is directed to the members of the New York based metal band Irate, and is intended to shed some light on the misconceptions that have created this most unfortunate situation. Having read and reviewed the interview entitled A Lesson In Non-Violence: Nando from NYC Irate, it has become quite apparent that this trademark dispute has been blown out of proportion and popularized by the transfer of inaccurate information. Hopefully this response will address some of the comments and answer some of the questions that Irate NY has in regard to this matter. In response, Celestial Entertainment conducted both nationwide and worldwide trademark searches in attempt to locate any other bands using the name IRATE. The results of these searches showed that the name IRATE was available, and we immediately began the trademark application process. It wasn't until 4 months later, that we became aware of the NY based Irate. It was at that time that I contacted Nick Ruiz at the phone number that was posted on the Irate NY website. During this conversation I merely asked questions about Irate NY, and told Mr. Ruiz that I represented a band with a similar name that had just filed for the trademark. Never once did I threaten Irate NY with any legal action, the reason being that, at that particular time we did not own the rights to the name. A few weeks following my conversation with Mr. Ruiz, I received a cease and desist order, stating that Irate NY was claiming rights to the name. Around the same time, Irate NY contacted the United States Patent and Trademark Office and filed for a trademark. Seeing as how there were two bands filing for the same name, the USPTO conducted a review to determine which band had existed longer. Each band was responsible for providing dated materials to prove the length of their existence, and both bands had the same burden of proof. After a lengthy investigation, the USPTO concluded that IRATE - Infinite Rebellion Against The Establishment were the rightful owners of the trademark.
Rocket: So then ultimately, what you're saying is that I.R.A.T.E. won the battle in the court.
Jeff: Even after we had won the case with the USPTO and been awarded the name, we met with Jeff Cohen (Irate NY attorney of record) in regard to their usage of the name. The agreement was that the east coast based Irate could continue using the name provided they add NY or NYC to the name. At this point, we hadn't even offered to manipulate our name at all. It was at the suggestion of Mr. Cohen, we opted to add the periods. Just for clarification, our name is NOT registered with the USPTO as I.R.A.T.E. The periods were added in attempt to allow the New York based artists the opportunity to continue their careers without completely changing their name. This is the complete story in regard to proving ownership of the name and as filed by the USPTO. It is also assumed, by comments made by Mr. Ruiz, that both sides agree up to this point.
Rocket: So unlike what NYC Irate and its fans have been thinking, it all was handled through the proper legal channels and that from your angle, there was never any malicious intent for the west coast Irate to put them out of business, is what I think you're ultimately driving at here.
Jeff: In regard to this dispute someone had to lose here. Unfortunately Irate NY was not a bunch of guys in some garage band. Irate NY were actually a very established act that was forced to give up their name, and this is tragic and should serve as a lesson to upcoming bands. This strife between bands is not about a trademark dispute. This strife has been generated because of disrespect something that both bands take very seriously, and something that could have been avoided. Had these bands been able to communicate with one another, Irate NY would have known that we never filed for the trademark with malicious intent Irate NY would have known that the reason that I.R.A.T.E. never filed for the trademark prior to 2001 is because they too were unaware of the process Irate NY would have known that I.R.A.T.E. did not have the luxury of a professional music manager between 1995 and 2001 Irate NY would have known that I.R.A.T.E.s debut album was only considered a debut because it was their first release on a record label with nationwide distribution, not because it was their first ever recording Irate NY would have also known that Methadone was a side project that included I.R.A.T.E. vocalist Erik Ulrich, and never once did Eriks involvement in Methadone take priority over I.R.A.T.E.s progress. This being said, its quite apparent that both bands continued to actively promote themselves between 1995 and 2001 without knowledge of the others existence. I.R.A.T.E. has never considered themselves a nu-metal band, and the fact that their previous record company labeled them as such, was only one of the many reasons that I.R.A.T.E. opted to find a way out of their contract.
Rocket: Okay, so we have cleared that up. And I have to agree that I personally reviewed I.R.A.T.E.'s new album "Brothers of The Same Struggle", and while it's certainly not extreme metal or thrash, it falls more into the hardcore metal category... as did NYC Irate's music.
This is basic stuff. Any metal fan can hear that I'm sure. Mudvayne is Nu-Metal. Static-X... Nu-metal. So on and so forth.
Jeff: If the animosity regarding this issue truly was between the fans, then Irate NY should have never written a song that called out another artist and when they did, they should have assumed that there would be recourse. Because of our acronym Infinite Rebellion Against The Establishment the New York based band has constantly chastised I.R.A.T.E. because of the relationships that they've formed within the industry. I.R.A.T.E. signs a recording deal and theyre compared to the establishment. I.R.A.T.E. gets an endorser and they're compared to the establishment. I.R.A.T.E. gets put on a sponsored tour and they're compared to the establishment. What ever happened to musicians forming bands in an attempt to make music, and then looking for opportunities to make it available to the public? Based on the comments made by Irate NY, it would appear as though they feel that any band that receives a little help in achieving their goals is a sell-out. Perhaps this is exactly why Irate NY claims to be world famous, yet no one knows who they are. In regard to Celestial Entertainment having the Irate NY myspace page shut down this occurred only after Irate NY posted notices to their fans, encouraging them to leave rude comments and violent threats on the I.R.A.T.E. Myspace page, and occurred only after numerous attempts to get Irate NY to comply with adding NY or NYC to their name, just as their attorney had promised. Looking back on this whole ordeal, we are all of the opinion that this is a distraction that neither band could afford. Yes both bands will continue on, but at what cost?
Rocket: So how much damage has really been done to the west coast I.R.A.T.E. throughout all of this?
Jeff: Irate NY have attempted to discredit I.R.A.T.E. by using terms such as transparent and hypocritical, and in some small circles have been successful. However, the only music fans that we receive hate mail from are those that are personally connected to Irate NY. The only music fans that try to dissect the meaning of I.R.A.T.E. are those personally connected to Irate NY. The only music fans that don't understand the true value of recording contracts, endorsements, and sponsorships are those personally connected to Irate NY. The reason for this is simple because true music fans understand that if not for recording contracts, endorsements and sponsorships, they never would have gotten turned-on to bands that they've potentially come to enjoy.
Rocket: Yeah. I mean, that is the basic nature of the beast. Is there anything else you'd like to say in conclusion with your response, Jeff?
Jeff: I personally congratulate the members of Irate NY for all of their accomplishments and will formally go on record as saying that we encourage them to keep the Irate name just add the NY or NYC, or whatever is necessary in showing distinction. I'd also like to congratulate Irate NY on their ability to remain independent for as long as they have, but to the members of Irate NY, I will say this, yYour methods to remain independent are the same methods that bands have been using for years, including I.R.A.T.E.. Your display of hard work combined with your Do It Yourself attitude is no secret either, and the fact that you place yourselves on a pedestal, based on your accomplishments, is just plain absurd. Belittling another band just to make yours look better, will only create enemies within this industry. You guys have been doing this long enough to know that. I'm sure that when all is said and done, your fans will be right there behind you to back your every move, but how will you fare in regard to making new fans. The general consensus is that most of the metal music fans nationwide just view you guys as a bunch of sniveling cry babies that spend more time trying to interrupt the progress of another band than you do in trying to achieve your own success. In closing, I'd like to say that this has been a true tragedy for both bands, and I sincerely hope that both groups of artists are able to learn from this experience and understand the importance of applying a business sense to their careers. In regard to my personal involvement In the event that I was acting as the manager of Irate NY during all of this, I would have been fighting on their behalf, but at the end of the day the only thing that matters are the facts, and the facts are that I.R.A.T.E. was granted the trademark because they indeed were a band first.
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