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All about the bass? Music an issue in Under Armour lawsuit versus Skechers

Under Armour's "Protect this House. I Will" ads have a certain look.

There are the determined, straining athletes and, in the company's words, the "gritty surroundings consisting of cracked concrete and worn and/or peeling paint."

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And then there is the music.

Under Armour says the music, too, is distinctive, with its "aggressive up-beat tempo, loud bass line, and heavy percussion sounds."

But can a musical composition be a trademark for a company's goods or services?

That's become an issue in Under Armour's federal suit against Skechers. The suit, filed in February, alleges the California-based shoe and apparel company violated protections by copying the look and feel of the ads — right down to the music.

Skechers says Under Armour is stretching trademark law improperly to try to protect its rights to its original music.

Under Armour, in a reply to the Baltimore-based court last month, said Skechers "incorrectly asserts that musical compositions cannot serve as trademarks. Certain copyrighted musical compositions have long served as trademarks."

Under Armour cited a number of compositions – "Sweet Georgia Brown" for the Harlem Globetrotters, The William Tell Overture for the old Lone Ranger television show – that it said are trademark and copyright protected.

Skechers' argument is that only copyright law – not trademark law – "protects the rights in a musical composition." Copyrights protect creative works, while trademarks identify a company's brand.

If the judge agreed, a portion of  Under Armour's claims could be dismissed.

In its suit, Under Armour has asked the court to halt the Skechers commercials, and order its competitor to pay unspecified damages, plus profits Skechers received from the ad.

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