When Bieber announced his new album Justice on February 26th, fans of Justice — as well as the duo’s label Ed Banger Records — claimed there were similarities between the title font on Bieber’s album cover and Justice’s own logo, where the “t” is accentuated to resemble a stylized cross.
“The morning Bieber announced his album, it was pretty tough to miss,” Justice’s co-manager Tyler Goldberg of Jet Management tells Rolling Stone. “Aside from seeing it all over the internet ourselves, we heard from hundreds of people throughout the day — industry people, Justice fans — and the Justice guys received a ton of messages, not only compelled to point out the similarities between the Justice Justin Bieber album, but confused. ‘Is this a Justice collaboration?'”
While Ed Banger Records first joked about the resemblance in late February when the album cover was revealed, the situation has since become a legal issue. In a March 10th letter from Justice’s counsel to Bieber’s lawyer and management, Justice called for Bieber to cease and desist his use of “Justice” in tandem with the “cross,” a “Mark” which the duo trademarked in both France (in 2008) and the European Union (in 2014).
“Your use of the Mark is illegal. You have not received permission from Justice to utilize the Mark,” the letter, obtained by Rolling Stone, states. “Moreover, Bieber’s work is in no way affiliated with, supported by, or sponsored by Justice. Such use of the Mark is not only illegal, but likely to deceive and confuse consumers.”
The cease-and-desist letter also includes an April 29th, 2020 email in which Bieber’s team reached out to Justice’s management in order to connect with the designer who created Justice’s logo. “We’re trying to track down the designer who did the below logo for Justice. Was hoping you could help point me in the right direction,” a member of Bieber’s management team emailed to an agency that represents the band. In another email the designer tells Bieber’s management, “I’m available to discuss about logo design sometime next week.” However, after that initial email, Justice’s management says Bieber’s team ceased communication. (The designer declined to comment for this article.)
“Basically, the trail went cold. There was attempts to set up the introduction, and it never happened,” Justice co-manager John Scholz at Jet Management tells Rolling Stone, adding that it was “a shock” when Bieber announced Justice. “Given that we have received emails from them where a member of [Bieber’s] management team specifically attached the Justice logo and asked to connect with the Justice logo designer; they mentioned it was to work on a Justin Bieber project, they did not give us any details about it, no mention of an album called ‘Justice’ or a logo using the word ‘Justice.'”
The letter continues, “Through your illegal co-opting of the Mark, you are now subject to immediate legal action and damages including, but not limited to, punitive and injustice relief.”
In the letter, Justice’s legal team cites previous trademark cases — from the Lanham Act to lawsuits involving brands like Wal-Mart, Bacardi and L.L. Bean — to claim that Bieber’s use of the Mark amounts to both infringement and “trademark dilution.” “Not only was Bieber’s team actually aware of Justice’s use of the Mark, they sought to use the same artist to essentially duplicate it for the Album. This is textbook bad faith and willful infringement,” the letter states.
Goldberg adds, “Justice is not an obscure artist. They just won a Grammy for Best Electronic Album [in 2019]. They’ve headlined festivals all over the world.” (Justice declined to comment for this article, citing pending legal action.)
Despite the letter, Bieber has pushed forward with the Justice release on March 19th. The singer is releasing a line of new clothing including a sweatshirt featuring a cross on the front — Justice’s debut 2007 album, dubbed “Cross” by fans, features a similar cross on the album cover — as well as a “Justice Cross Hoodie,” which fans of the group claim is reminiscent of the font used for Justice’s 2019 film Iris: A Space Opera.
While neither a member of Bieber’s legal team nor his rep responded to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment, Justice’s management claim Bieber’s legal team did “reject” the cease-and-desist letter, arguing that the singer’s logo and merchandise did not infringe on the duo’s trademark.
“Global patent and trademark offices do not police the use of trademarks by third parties. As a result, trademarks need to be defended at all times by the trademark holder,” Goldberg says.
“The onus is on the trademark owner to protect against an unlawful use by third parties, regardless of the third party being a billionaire manager or a music superstar,” he adds. “We’ll continue to protect the Justice logo — the trademark that was established 15 years ago — at all costs.”