Entertainment Law Reporter
June 2006 Volume 28 Number 1

Comical references to “BUFU” in movie “How High” did not infringe or dilute FUBU clothing trademark

“How High” was “a satirical ‘stoner comedy’ about the ridiculous, fictional antics and adventures of two African-American youths (played by popular rappers Method Man and Redman), who, following a course of ‘supernatural’ events involving a marijuana plant, find themselves (along with a full cast of characters who personify wide-ranging and exaggerated stereotypes) attending college at Harvard University.” The movie was produced by Universal Studios; and for its trouble, Universal got itself sued by the company that makes the FUBU clothing line.

The clothing company’s own name is singularly unhip: GTFM, LLC. But its FUBU trademark is hip. It’s an acronym for the motto “For Us, By Us,” and GTFM does everything it can to protect it. The reason GTFM sued Universal is that characters in “How High” use the term “BUFU,” which in the movie means “By Us, Fuck You.”

According to GTFM, the movie’s use of BUFU infringed and diluted the FUBU trademark. But federal District Judge Richard Owen disagreed. In a short and to-the-point decision, the judge granted Universal’s motion for summary judgment, explaining Universal “used ‘BUFU’ as a parody, which is entitled to full protection under the First Amendment” and under case law “establishing ‘safe harbors’ for this form of comical expression.”

The judge also concluded that Universal’s use of BUFU did not cause consumer confusion or tarnished the FUBU mark.

GTFM, LLC v. Universal Studios, Inc., 2006 WL 1377048 , 2006 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 30192 (S.D.N.Y. 2006)