Vice Media Ends Trademark Dispute vs. Whittier Band ViceVersa

ViceVersa are probably poppin' a champagne bottle somewhere in Whittier right now...EXPAND
ViceVersa are probably poppin' a champagne bottle somewhere in Whittier right now...
Courtesy of ViceVersa

Back in April,  OC Weekly spoke to ViceVersa in their Whittier studio. At the time, singer, Zeke Zeldon (whose legal name is Christopher Morales), drummer, Ariel Fredrickson, and bassist Sarah Corza seemed concerned about the future of their band after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Vice Media for a trademark dispute over their name.

The media behemoth, Vice, claimed that ViceVersa's name was "unauthorized use of Vice Media's intellectual property," and is "likely to confuse consumers." After the David vs. Goliath legal story was published locally and nationally, the band received widespread support from people criticizing Vice for its legal actions. Now, ViceVersa are celebrating Vice Media's decision to pull back their initial challenge of their trademark application.  

"Let's re-wind this tornado." Morales jokes as he recalls how the conflict all started. Last November, Morales received provisional approval for his application to trademark "ViceVersa" by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  A month later a cease-and-desist letter from Vice Media arrived in the mail. Having never faced such a serious legal issue, the band sought help from their lawyer, Harry Finkle, who told Vice Media that the band was willing to narrow the scope of Morales's trademark application. Morales' and Finkle received a response in March via a letter of opposition to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board challenging ViceVersa's trademark application. ViceVersa then decided to share their story to several media outlets such as NBC Los Angeles, Huffington Post, Pitchfork and OC Weekly.  

"The only option we have is to try to bring attention to it." said Morales when remembering how the band felt two months ago when confronted with the clash. Finkle, ViceVersa's lawyer, told the working class band that continuing with the trademark dispute would be very costly. But for the band, surrendering their name was not an option either. "We're pretty much standing up for anybody who's independent," Morales told OC Weekly back in April.

After their story started making headlines, ViceVersa received support from fans who created memes trolling Vice . KROQ's own DJ and radio show host, Kat Corbett, even had something to say about the matter on Twitter.

Then, Vice Media founder and CEO, Shane Smith, blocked ViceVersa on Twitter. "I don't know why he would block us," Morales says that he thinks other people tweeting Vice and Smith with critiques over their cease-and-desist letter to ViceVersa may have led to the block. "It's not like we were trying to be assholes...we were just trying to protect our turf."

Vice Media's cease-and-desist letter initially demanded the band relinquish the ViceVersa name by April 18th. According to Morales after three or four days of the band's story circulating in the press, Vice Media's lawyer offered a 30-day extension to revisit their conversation about reaching a mutual agreement over ViceVersa's trademark application. On May 23rd, Vice Media's lawyer submitted a withdrawal of opposition without prejudice to the United States Trademark and Patent Office, officially ending the legal dispute.

When asked about the legal resolution between ViceVersa and Vice Media, a Vice Media spokesman told OC Weekly, "Without getting into legal jargon, we're glad we got an agreement that allows ViceVersa to keep their name. Happy this was worked out and we wish the band the best of luck." 

"If we ever do see him (Shane Smith) in person or chill with him, we'll be like yo, thanks." Morales said with a light chuckle. 

In celebration of the band keeping their name and moving on with their music, ViceVersa has released a new interactive music video for their song, "Head", from their latest release, Da EP Vol 2—originally released in 2015, the video's production was postponed due to their unforeseen legal conflict with Vice Media.

In the video, an unsuspecting fan is taken on an adventure with ViceVersa throughout some of Los Angeles's coolest spots starting at Amoeba Records then the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Caveman Vintage Music, Placita Olvera, Little Tokyo, California Donuts, Chinatown, Wurstkütche, ViceVersa's studio in Whittier charmingly named, The Dank, and finally Pellicola Pizzeria. Since the video was shot with a 360-degree camera, make sure to click on the screen and drag the mouse around to experience the full visual effect—cool right? Here's a link for mobile users. 

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For an independent band that arguably faced their biggest obstacle ever, ViceVersa stood their ground by continuing to proudly rock gigs with their original name, despite Vice Media insisting they drop it—something other indie bands perhaps wouldn't dare do if faced with the same dilemma. 

Citing a new found confidence, Morales says ViceVersa learned a lot from the desmadre, "We got a taste of what it's like to have the spotlight.. and that it's a lot of work." 

Morales also shares that he wants folks to focus on the collective's artistry now. "I wanted the Vice issue to transition to our music." he says. And it has. Since the debacle, people have expressed their support for ViceVersa not just for their legal woes—and now triumphs, but also for their eclectic sound of alternative rock, punk, hip-hop and just about anything else the band feels like creating. Turnout for ViceVersa shows has increased and the band is selling more merch since surfacing to the public eye back in April. 

"I'm glad we prevailed....we're just now gearing up for our music... for our next record," says Morales. "That's really what it's all about." 

You can catch the band this summer as they tour throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, New Orleans, and Denver.  A new E.P is also on standby. To listen to ViceVersa's music, purchase merch, and check out their upcoming tour dates visit  www.viceversa.la


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