The website for Odenton-based Celtic band The American Rogues notes the group has recorded nine albums and two DVDs and played for fans all over the world to critical acclaim during its nearly two decades of making music.
There’s just one problem, according to a lawsuit filed last week: None of it is true.
“Defendants have engaged in an intentional course of conduct for the purpose of confusing the public into believing that The American Rogues are the same band as The Rogues,” alleges The Rogues’ founder Randy Wothke, of Houston, Texas.
Wothke has asked a federal judge to find The American Rogues infringed his trademark and to prevent The American Rogues from representing in any way that it is connected with The Rogues, which also is a Celtic group.
The complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, also names The American Rogues’ founder, Nelson Stewart, and his wife, Jeania, as defendants. Nelson Stewart is a former member of The Rogues.
Wothke has common law rights to The Rogues’ trademark and is in the process of registering the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to the lawsuit.
Wothke founded the band in 1994, according to a history on The Rogues’ website, and has played with a rotating cast of musicians. Nelson Stewart became the band’s front man in 2002.
In October 2010, Wothke and Stewart signed an agreement that if either of them left the band for any reason, full ownership of the name would go to the remaining band member, according to Wothke’s lawsuit.
Last year, Stewart left the band “after several months of disagreements with Wothke over the artistic direction, finances and operation of The Rogues,” according to the lawsuit.
Stewart then booked himself and several other members of The Rogues for the 2012 Maryland Irish Festival as The American Rogues, according to the lawsuit.
Jeania Stewart registered the name “The American Rogues” with the state in September 2012, the complaint states. One month later, she filed articles of organization to create The American Rogues LLC, the complaint states. She also registered the domain names “theamericanrogues.com” and “therogues.us,” which takes a user to The American Rogues website.
“The domain ‘therogues.us’ is used by Jeania Stewart and Nelson Stewart solely for the purpose of misdirecting traffic on the Internet,” the complaint states.
Charles F. Morgan, Wothke’s lawyer, said his client talked to Nelson Stewart before he left The Rogues and suggested Stewart use a different name for his band. While using “The American Rogues” alone might be trademark infringement, Morgan said, the bigger problem is the lack of transparency about its connections to The Rogues.
“It seems like it’s really intentional or willful,” said Morgan, of Astrachan Gunst Thomas P.C. in Baltimore.
Efforts to contact Nelson Stewart on Friday were unsuccessful.
Wothke’s lawsuit also claims The American Rogues caused “actual confusion” on the band’s Facebook page. A commenter asked last month if there was still another band called “The Rogues” and mentioned its website and CDs that he had.
“The American Rogues posted an answer,” the complaint states: “‘Yes. We split last year and most of the guys stayed in the band. [W]e became the American Rogues.’”
The lawsuit seeks any profits The American Rogues generated while infringing on The Rogues’ trademark. Wothke also wants control of the two domain names used by The American Rogues as well as $200,000 in statutory damages for violating federal cyberpiracy laws with the domain names.