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NOONE v. BANNER TALENT ASSOCS.

August 1, 1975

Peter Blair NOONE, p/k/a Herman of Herman's Hermits, Plaintiff,
v.
BANNER TALENT ASSOCIATES, INC., et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: METZNER

METZNER, District Judge:

 Defendants Karl Anthony Green, Derek Leckenby and Jan Barry Whitwam (the individual defendants) move to dismiss the complaint for improper service and resulting lack of in personam jurisdiction, for lack of standing, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and on grounds of equity and comity. Defendant Banner Talent Associates, Inc. (Banner) joins in the motion to dismiss.

 This case has already been before the court on plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction which was denied after an evidentiary hearing.

 The individual defendants, together with plaintiff Peter Blair Noone, were the original members of an English musical rock 'n roll group known as "Herman's Hermits." Plaintiff was the lead singer of the group at the time, and held himself out and was identified as "Herman" by the public. The group achieved a world-wide reputation, made numerous million-selling records and albums, and frequent television, stage and concert appearances.

 In 1969 Noone, apparently deciding that he needed greater personal exposure, caused himself to be separately billed, styling the group "Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits." The group's last record release was under this name.

 In 1971 Noone left the group to pursue his individual career. The individual defendants stayed together, performing under the name "The Hermits." The four were together again, briefly, in 1973 for an American concert tour, where they were billed as "Herman's Hermits featuring Peter Noone."

 In late 1973, the individual defendants, with another member, started an American tour without Noone, billing themselves as "Herman's Hermits." All of their engagements were booked by defendant Banner, a nonexclusive booking agent. Sometime thereafter, following an alleged request by Noone for the individual defendants to cease the use of the name, Noone organized a group to perform in England, billed as "Herman's Hermits." The individual defendants have brought an action in England to enjoin Noone from the use of the name in that country. Shortly thereafter, Noone brought the instant action to enjoin the individual defendants and Banner from using the name in this country. The complaint alleges two counts: one based on Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and the other a claim under the common law for unfair competition.

 The question of service and personal jurisdiction was raised at the time of the evidentiary hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction. After hearing the evidence, I found that service was proper and the court had personal jurisdiction of the defendants.

 The individual defendants are all citizens of Great Britain. The plaintiff is also a British subject. The individual defendants argue that Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act cannot be used by a foreign plaintiff against foreign defendants. This is a question of first impression.

 Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), states in pertinent part:

 
"§ 1125. False designations of origin and false descriptions forbidden
 
(a) Any person who shall . . . use in connection with any goods or services . . . a false designation of origin, or any false description or representation . . . and shall cause such goods or services to enter into commerce, and any person who shall with knowledge of the falsity . . . cause or procure the same to be . . . used in commerce . . . shall be liable to a civil action . . . by any person who believes that he is or is likely to be damaged by the use of any such false description or representation." (Emphasis added.)

 By its express terms, therefore, the section does not limit its applicability to nationals of the United States. "In general, foreigners can claim the same rights and are subject to the same duties as citizens" under the trademark laws. 4 Callman, Unfair Competition, Trademarks and Monopolies § 100.1(a), at 844 (3d Ed. 1970).

 Courts have held that foreign plaintiffs have standing to sue United States nationals under Section 43(a), e. g., Scotch Whiskey Association v. Barton Distilling Company, 338 F. Supp. 595 (N.D.Ill.1971), aff'd, 489 F.2d 809 (7th Cir. 1973); Menendez v. Faber, Coe & Gregg, Inc., 345 F. Supp. 527 (S.D.N.Y. 1972), modified on other grounds, 485 F.2d 1355 (2d Cir. 1973), and that "the general provisions of the Lanham Act may be ...


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