Appeals court upholds dismissal of ‘Soul Man’ suit

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by Brett Barrouquere
Associated Press Writer

Sam Moore may be “The Legendary Soul Man,” but a federal appeals court says he doesn’t have sole use of the title.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the dismissal of Moore’s suit against the Weinstein Company and MGM studios over the 2008 film “Soul Men” and its soundtrack and promotions.

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SAM MOORE AND DAVE PRATER, JR.

Moore sued saying the movie, starring the late actor Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson, bore too much of a resemblance to himself and one-time singing partner, Dave Prater Jr.

Moore and Prater, who died in 1988, performed together for two decades, sometimes billed as “Double Dynamite.” Their hits include “Soul Man,” ”Hold On, I’m Comin’” and “When Something is Wrong with My Baby.”

Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote the movie and promotions may have had some resemblance to Moore, but were different enough.

“Without a doubt, the movie added significant expressive elements to any purported use of Moore’s identity,” Cook wrote in a 16-page opinion joined by judges John M. Rogers and Gregory Van Tatenhove.

Messages left Thursday for the Weinstein Company and one for Moore’s Washington, D.C.-based attorney were not immediately returned.

After Prater died, Moore continued to perform, billed as “The Legendary Soul Man,” although he never formally trademarked the nickname. Moore was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of Sam and Dave in 1992. He sued the filmmakers, claiming the movie violated an unregistered trademark he holds because of his fame and notoriety.

The film focuses on two characters forming two-thirds of a 1960s soul trio named “Marcus Hooks and The Real Deal.” The trio’s third member, lead singer Marcus Hooks, portrayed by musician John Legend, leaves the group for a successful solo career.

The movie tracks Jackson’s and Mac’s characters as they reunite in Los Angeles and travel across the country, playing in small-town bars and venues on the way to the Apollo Theater in New York for a tribute concert to Hooks. During one of the stops, they perform “Hold On, I’m Comin’.”

Moore claimed Jackson and Mac were portraying Sam and Dave.

To promote the movie and soundtrack, Concord Music Group, a defendant in the lawsuit, put out a CD and DVD with several pages of an insert titled “The Original Soul Men Are At Stax,” the renowned recording studio in Memphis, Tenn. The cover art featured various Stax Record albums, including artists Otis Redding, Issac Hayes and another insert page that featured a Stax-promoted concert in Norway in 1967.

Moore claimed the insert misappropriated his publicity rights. Cook was unimpressed with Moore’s argument.

“Read in context, no reasonable juror would mistake this ‘Soul Men’ reference to Sam & Dave,” Cook wrote. “And, the fact that the soundtrack producers marketed their product to fans of a variety of soul artists, including Sam & Dave, does not suggest otherwise.”

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Follow Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP

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