Karen Willis, wife and agent of former Village People frontman Victor Willis, filed three total petitions for cancellation to cancel three separate registrations with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Two registrations were for live music and one was for recorded music. Willis, who is representing herself pro se, pleaded claims of fraud, abandonment, and genericness in each of the three proceedings.
Willis admits the group has used the band name and logo as recently as 2010 to promote shows. However, she claims that these shows do not count as continued usage because the members of the band were lip-syncing and therefore are not a real "musical and vocal group."
The TTAB and the Federal Circuit did not agree. They both stated that a group is not disqualified as a "musical and vocal group" just because a band lip-syncs and does not play their own instruments. Under the same reasoning, Willis' claims that the trademark had been fraudulently obtained twas dismissed.
The court also dismissed Willis' claim that the trademark should be cancelled for genericness because "Village People" had become a common term for live musical performances.
Though Willis has not been successful with the TTAB or the Federal Circuit in getting the two live music trademarks cancelled, she is still working to have the recorded music trademark cancelled. In the same proceedings where it ruled on the live music trademarks, the TTAB ruled that there was a significant dispute of material fact regarding whether or not Can't Stop Productions, Inc., the owner of the trademarks, had continuously used the trademark to sell recorded music. For these reasons, the TTAB allowed Willis to amend and refile her abandonment claim and certain fraud claims for as to the the recorded music registration.
Willis and her husband have engaged in other intellectual property battles with Can't Stop Productions. Due to a decades-old change in the Copyright Act, Victor Willis won a copyright termination dispute against it last May which allowed Willis to recover rights to "YMCA," "In the Navy," and other songs.