Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has filed a federal lawsuit in Florida against Robert James Ritchie, better known by his stage name Kid Rock, over the name of his current “Greatest Show on Earth Tour.”
The lawsuit was filed in Tampa federal court on Friday.
The circus company trademarked the phrase, “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1985 and remains the owner, the lawsuit says.
Kid Rock’s use of the phrase casts Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in a negative light, the suit alleges.
“A live performance of Kid Rock is antithetical to the family friendly reputation of the circus and the trademarks,” the lawsuit said. “During at least one performance, Kid Rock repeatedly used vulgar language, both in his songs and in addressing the audience.”
Also, in the tour’s official “Greatest Show on Earth” promotional video, “Kid Rock states numerous times, ‘Welcome to the greatest f***in’ show on earth,’” the suit said. “In addition to use of vulgar language, the video includes obscene gestures, smoking and images of women in various stages of undress, which would be inappropriate for children and inconsistent with the family friendly entertainment of (the circus).”
In a Nov. 16 letter from Kid Rock’s attorney to Ringling Bros., the trademark claim is called “misplaced.”
“The words, ‘greatest show on earth’ are common, descriptive and used in a non-trademark fashion,” attorney Seth Miller wrote in the letter.
Miller also notes that Ringling Bros. “has ceased its live circus performances.”
“The only use of the mark in commerce today appears to be in online merchandise sales, a far cry from my client’s rock and roll song or tour,” Miller wrote.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s lawsuit is seeking a restraining order to keep Kid Rock from using the phrase “The Greatest Show on Earth” during his tour and deliver “all catalogs, signs, displays, labels, brochures, videos, images, merchandise (and) advertising and promotional material” to the court until the case is decided.
The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages.