Is there room in the world for two ukulele orchestras with similar names and similar performance elements? The simple answer is, yes, but the reality is more complicated for the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (UOGB), which has accused the UK Ukulele Orchestra (UKUO) of infringing on its registered trademark.
As a little background, the UOGB is one of the best-known ukulele ensembles in the world, popular for its covers of rock songs such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and entertaining live shows that have taken them across the globe since forming in 1985. The UKUO was started by British players living in Germany, where the group is based, and has been performing local gigs since 2011.
According to The Guardian, “the parallels between the acts are striking”: Each group has eight members, two women, and six men; both perform in black-tie attire; and both have pop covers in their repertoire.
Although the groups had been aware of one another, the UOGB decided to take action when the UKUO recently booked seven dates in the UK. UOGB filed an injunction to stop the tour, and while the application was rejected, the judge did say that the UOGB could apply for an expedited trial on the grounds that the rival uke act may have diluted its trademark.
The UOGB is currently on a year-and-a-half long international tour, which hits England next month and ends with four months in the United States. There’s no word yet on whether it will pursue a trademark case against the UKUO, which is considering changing its name and already switched its performance attire to a more casual look.