On a rainy Friday evening in a studio in Whittier indie band ViceVersa talk to the Weekly about the cease-and-desist letter they received over their name from Vice Media—a Canadian-American media giant estimated to be worth $2.5 Billion with a CEO who once spent $300,000 on dinner. ViceVersa on the other hand, struggle to pay their rent and their piggy-bank sized funds have rapidly depleted since this legal challenge surfaced. "It's been a crazy 24-hours." says Christopher Morales, the band's guitarist and singer also known as Zeke.
ViceVersa attracted the attention of Vice Media after Morales received provisional approval for his application to trademark "ViceVersa" by the United States Patent and Trademark Office last November. 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 the band was willing to narrow the scope of Morales's trademark application. The only response ViceVersa and Finkle received was in March via a letter of opposition to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board asking ViceVersa's trademark application be denied. The band has until April 18th to respond or face legal action.
"For starters Vice and ViceVersa are two different meanings but because they wrote back in March with "that's not gonna work" that told us without a benefit of the doubt that they don't even care." Morales says "So because of that we were pretty much like..." [Morales raises two middle fingers in the air.]
In copies obtained by the Weekly, the cease-and-desist letter claims Morales's use of the name "ViceVersa" is "unauthorized use of Vice Media's intellectual property," and is "likely to confuse consumers,"—the word "Vice" being the intellectual property in question. The media behemoth argues the indie band's trademark application is "clearly for Mr. Morales' commercial profit and gain, to the detriment of Vice Media." ViceVersa barely
Vice Media also demanded the band immediately relinquish the name ViceVersa, take down their social media pages and halt any sales of merchandise with the "ViceVersa" name. The band must also produce documentation of revenue since its formation 3 years ago. Morales could face “claims for injunctive relief and monetary damages,” if he is non-compliant to Vice's demands.
According to Huffington Post, a Vice spokesperson said ViceVersa’s trademark application “overlaps with the scope of our already existing federal trademark. This is a standard, cut-and-dry trademark matter and we are not involved in litigation with this band.” Vice declined to comment to the Weekly.
ViceVersa have launched a GoFundMe account to prepare for the legal battle that may occur. "We're pretty much standing up for anybody who's independent." Morales says. "As for as fighting or battling [Vice], I don't want to know what that will entail or what that bill even is."
After doing research on Vice's roots as an alternative news source Morales says, "This [cease-and-desist letter] goes against everything they supposedly talk about and the content they do." He shares that even some of Vice's reporters sided with the band upon hearing about the case. "When we went out on the streets to interview people [about the ViceVersa name] we actually found Vice reporters and editors from Noisey (Vice's music channel) and they were like "What? That's bullshit." Morales says.
ViceVersa released a video announcement regarding the cease-and-desist letter from Vice.
All three band members previously worked side jobs to fund their dream then collectively decided to fully commit to their music. Now ViceVersas's funds are dwindling faster than expected. "We're hearing some rattles in our piggy bank definitely." Sarah Cora, the band's bassist says. "We just got a new box of ViceVersa t-shirts too—we don't want to waste that, it's not cheap to do, you know?" says drummer, Ariel Fredrickson.
The band just started to garner buzz from their recent release, Da EP Vol 2, which snagged the #1 EP title for LA Record's “Best of 2015 Reader & Contributor Poll.” ViceVersa don't want their hard work to be erased by having to reidentify themselves. "Our musical interests are all over the place," Morales says. "Case in point ViceVersa, we can play this we or we can play that and that was the idea...just to be free to play whatever we want."
Finding themselves at a standstill, ViceVersa previously had plans to go
If there is any silver lining in this matter, it's the hilarious memes ViceVersa fans have created in the wake of the band's battle with Vice Media.
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"I think our fans have given us the courage to do
The group is still allowed to be ViceVersa until April 18th. The band plans to go hard and make as much noise as possible until then. "I think they [Vice] didn't expect us to respond," says Morales who thinks Vice likely sees them as just another corporate task, "Another little band to get rid of—but for us, this is our livelihood."
Donate to ViceVersa's GoFundMe account here. You can also support ViceVersa by rockin' out at their upcoming show Tuesday, April 12th 9 p.m. at The Prospector, 2400 E. 7th Street, Long Beach. $5