Singer wins magazine's suit over name

August 22, 1991|By Newsday

NEW YORK B — NEW YORK -- What is the essence of Essence? It depends on whom you ask.

To Tamara Hutchinson, a 20-year-old South Bronx, N.Y., woman, it is a good name to call yourself if you are an up-and-coming rap artist whose song is featured in the hit movie, "New Jack City."

To Edward Lewis, publisher of Essence magazine, it is a valuable trademark name -- built on 20 years of serving primarily young, black female readers -- that should not be used without permission.

But to New York federal judge Charles Haight, the battle over the name "Essence" is a complex legal dispute, worthy of a 66-page decision that ultimately sided with Hutchinson's use of her newfound stage name.

The dispute began earlier this year when Lewis saw "New Jack City" and noticed that one of the film's songs, "Lyrics 2 the Rhythm," was recorded by a singer with a familiar name -- Essence.

Lewis' attorneys soon sent a "cease and desist" letter to Hutchinson, her producer, Joseph Saddler (who is also known as "Grand Master Flash") and to their record company, Giant Records.

After a lengthy trial, Haight said in a ruling last month that rap music and the movie "New Jack City" appealed to a wider audience than the magazine's audience of 850,000 readers. As a result, the judge said, the singer's use of the Essence name did not cause enough confusion to constitute a trademark infringement.

K? Lewis says his attorneys are considering a possible appeal.

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