Judge Tosses Medieval Times' Trademark Lawsuit Against Union

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that Medieval Times brought against its workers union last year accusing the group of trademark violations over its name and logo.

In an opinion issued Thursday, the judge said the dinner theater chain failed to demonstrate that the union, called Medieval Times Performers United, was creating “confusion” among consumers and leading people to believe the labor group was somehow endorsed by the company.

“The Court concludes there is no plausible likelihood of confusion,” wrote Judge William J. Martini of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The company was widely mocked by union supporters on social media when it brought its claim against the group in October 2022. The union accused Medieval Times of trying to silence it through litigation and filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

Medieval Times argued that the union had ripped off its medieval-themed imagery and devalued its brand.

“The elements featured in the Medieval Times Performers Logo (i.e., castle, swords, old script style text) all resemble elements of Medieval Times’s branding and middle ages-themed décor, which are clearly meant to evoke Medieval Times’ unique image,” the company claimed.

But Martini found that consumers were unlikely to conflate the union with the company through the logos.

“Although both employ red and yellow in some fashion (in the logos and costumes), ‘Medieval Times’ is written in different stylized fonts and colors,” Martini wrote in his opinion, which was first reported by Bloomberg Law. “The Medieval Times Mark is written in yellow or red lettering in contrast to the [union] logo which is in black font.” 

“In sum,” he added, “neither a side-by-side comparison nor the overall impression is confusingly similar.”

Workers at a Buena Park, California, castle have been on strike since February.
Workers at a Buena Park, California, castle have been on strike since February.

Workers at a Buena Park, California, castle have been on strike since February.

Instead, he said the union’s use of Medieval Times’ name in its own served a logical purpose: “to identify the Union as employees of Medieval Times.”

The lawsuit is part of a larger battle between Medieval Times and its workers union, which is pushing for higher wages and stronger safety standards inside the company’s castles.

The knights, squires, actors and stablehands at Medieval Times’ Lyndhurst, New Jersey, location became the first to unionize last year. They were soon followed by their counterparts at the castle in Buena Park, California. The company has nine castles in the U.S. and one in Canada.

Although they use the name Medieval Times Performers United, the workers are represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists, a union that includes the Radio City Rockettes and performers at Disneyland. The union’s secretary-treasurer, Susanne K. Doris, praised the judge’s opinion in the trademark case.

“The court recognized the absurdity of the company’s claim that the public wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Medieval Times and the union that is advocating for Medieval Times workers,” Doris said in a statement. “The dismissal will allow us to continue focusing on what really matters — fair wages, safe working conditions, and respect in the workplace — without this needless distraction.”

Workers at both the Lyndhurst and Buena Park locations are trying to negotiate first contracts with the company. The Buena Park workers have been on strike since February, accusing Medieval Times of retaliation and other unfair labor practices.

Although its trademark lawsuit was dismissed, Medieval Times did succeed in getting the union’s TikTok account shut down by lodging an intellectual property complaint with the social media giant. Prosecutors at the NLRB recently filed a complaint against Medieval Times over the TikTok ban, saying it violated labor law by trying to muzzle employees.

This story has been updated with comment from the AGVA.