It feels like 1974’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve all over again, because The Doobie Brothers are making headlines. Billboard reports that the band known for taking it to the streets is now taking it to the courtroom, where presumably they will fare much better with a lawsuit against a folk-rock cover duo named Doobie Decimal System. (Street justice is notoriously lax when it comes to enforcing anti-bad-pun policy.) Doobro Entertainment and Doobie Brothers Corp. are suing the band, claiming the group’s name is “confusingly similar” to their own, much in the same way that Doritos and Cheetos are also confusingly similar to someone who is extremely high.
While no one will be surprised to learn that the Doobie Brothers are easily confused, the case brings to light a weird fact: the brothers Doobie have possessed a trademark on the word “Doobie” since 1982—at least as it relates to musical performances. (You can still call your marijuana anything you want.) The upshot is that anyone who wants to advertise “Doobies” at their concerts needs permission from the band. What if you publicized a performance of the song “Scooby-Dooby-Doo”? We’re not lawyers, but we’re pretty sure that in that case, the Doobie Brothers would be able to send you to music jail, for life.
For its part, Doobie Decimal System has only been around for the better part of a year, and it seems to exist primarily to provide a side project for Jason Crosby and Roger McNamee—a seasoned musician and his rich, well-connected buddy, respectively. (Crosby has played over the years with Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton; McNamee is a co-founder of two multi-billion dollar private equity firms, one of which he started with Bono.) As the website teases, you too could have a magical night of these musicians covering Beatles tunes, interspersed with “original songs, such as ‘Backlash’ and ‘Wrong Side of The Road’ by Crosby and ‘Live A Little’ and ‘Couple of Puffs’ by McNamee.” Here’s their elegant, subtle logo:
The plaintiffs—or plaintspliffs, as they might put it—claim that Crosby and McNamee have chosen a name that is “highly phonetically and visually similar,” because it has the word “Doobie” in it, see. Sadly, The Doobie Brothers do not claim to have invented the word “Doobie.” Instead, they posit that it “has no meaning in the music industry other than to identify” their brand of smooth, accessible melodies. The Doobie Brothers are determined to render null and void Doobie Decimal System, much as even a cursory perusal of the facts would quickly render the word “Doobie” meaningless to any reader unfortunate enough to have to read it this many times in a row. Doobie.