Hip-Hop Dancer Honey Rockwell Loses Claim Against ‘Honey' Movies

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

Dec. 29 — A hip-hop dancer's use of the stage name “Honey Rockwell” did not give her rights in the name “Honey” as used in two films about a character called Honey Daniels, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled Dec. 18.

Granting a motion to dismiss, the court said that the plaintiff had failed to allege facts that would support an assertion that she held any rights in the single name “Honey,” as opposed to the composite name “Honey Rockwell.”

Bronx Dancer Sues Filmmaker

Ereina Valencia of New York is a dancer who has performed and taught in the Bronx and has produced a music video and has been the subject of coverage in dance magazines. She has performed under the name “Honey Rockwell” since 1994.

In 2003, Universal Pictures released the film “Honey,” starring Jessica Alba as Honey Daniels, a Bronx native who teaches hip-hop dance. This was followed up in 2011 with the sequel “Honey 2,” focusing on a protege of the Honey Daniels character.

In 2014, Valencia sued Universal, alleging numerous claims, including trademark dilution and trademark infringement under the Lanham Trademark Act of 1946 and Georgia state law.

Universal moved for dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which the law offers relief.

Judge Richard W. Story determined that Valencia had failed to allege sufficient facts to sustain a claim that she held any trademark rights in the term “Honey.”

According to the court, Valencia could not establish any acquired distinctiveness in the mark through a showing of secondary meaning.

“Rights in the composite name ‘Honey Rockwell' do not confer rights in the single name ‘Honey,' ” the court said. “Plaintiff has not alleged that she sold goods and services under the single name ‘Honey.' Because she has not used the mark ‘HONEY,' Plaintiff cannot have achieved secondary meaning in that mark.”

The court thus dismissed this along with the other claims.

Valencia was represented by the Reynolds Law Group LLC, Atlanta. Universal City Studios was represented by Bryan Cave LLP, Atlanta.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar at amazumdar@bna.com

Full text at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Valencia_v_Universal_City_Studios_LLC_No_114CV00528RWS_2014_BL_35