Dr. Dre vs. Dr. Drai: A Tale of Two Doctors
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has rejected an effort by rapper Dr. Dre to stop an OB-GYN named Draion M. Burch from registering his nickname “Dr. Drai”, ruling that gynecology and music are “obviously far removed.”
This emphasizes the limits of trademark law in creating a universal protection from anyone using your mark.
The critical thing to learn is that trademark law is not intended to protect the mark owners; it is intended to protect the public from confusion as to the source of a good or service.
In the Dr. Dre/Dr. Drai case, the question the TTAB looked at was whether a member of the public would confuse OB-GYN services with the production and distribution of music. They found that it is unlikely that a person will thing that the OB-GYN Dr. Drai is somehow associated with the musician Dr. Dre. Thus, Dr. Drai can get his own mark in the medical services area.
Interesting, the TTAB evaluated the fame of Dr. Dre's mark, and still rejected the challenge. “Although opposer has established that his name Dr. Dre is of sufficient fame or reputation, he has failed to show that a connection would be presumed in the mind of the consuming public when applicant’s Dr. Drai marks are used in connection with its applied-for goods and services[.]"
Most attorneys advising in trademark law are somewhat conservative, recommending that marks that are potentially confusing are avoided. There are multiple reasons for this: from the uncertainty of a challenge to the cost of changing marks should you lose. That being said; there is no reason to be overly cautious when it is clear that there will be no likelihood of confusion.