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Michael Jackson estate forces Belgian radio show to change name

By | Published on Tuesday 19 October 2021

Michael Jackson

The estate of Michael Jackson has threatened legal action against Belgian broadcaster VRT over one of the programmes on its Studio Brussel radio station, pop quiz show ‘King Of Pop’.

The show, which has already run for three series, sees celebrities and members of the public answer questions about pop music. Whoever wins is crowned the ‘king of pop’. Or at least they were.

That phrase, you see, is a trademark of Triumph International Inc, the California-based company that manages the many phrases and logos owned by the Michael Jackson estate. And it’s really not happy about any this. That unhappiness has now been set out in a formal legal letter.

According to The Brussels Times, presenter Stijn Van de Voorde says that the letter sent to VRT was “signed by a lot of lawyers” and “says that we are not allowed to use that name just like that. We did not even know that ‘King Of Pop’ was a protected trademark”.

“It is pretty cool that these people know we exist, but it is kind of stupid that they are making such a fuss about it”, he adds. “Funny that they have only just discovered this now. I think they spend all day looking for ways to sue people and make money. It’s all very American”.

As for whether he plans to fight this in the courts, well, no. “‘King Of Pop’ is a very cheap programme”, he says. “I make it all by myself. I make the questions, choose the music and present it. It would be stupid if we had to pay money for it now. There is no budget for that. We would rather have a new name”.

A trademark is a trademark, of course. Although it does seem unlikely that anyone would think that a pop quiz on a radio station aimed at Dutch-speaking Belgians had any official connection to Michael Jackson. I’m not sure if past winners of the show will have to stop referring to themselves as the King Of Pop too.

When deciding on a new name, it would probably be a good idea for Van de Voorde and his team to run through and avoid the other trademarks owned by Triumph International. ‘Michaelfest’ is out. So is ‘Michael Jackson Fan Fest’. Don’t go thinking you can call it ‘This Is It’ either. Oh, and pretty much any wording related to ‘Neverland Ranch’ you can think of should be disregarded.

The name ‘Thriller The World’s Biggest Selling Album’ is a no-no. One I would have thought would be alright, but apparently isn’t, is ‘Michael’s Pets’. The estate would almost certainly take exception to ‘Dangerous’ too. Another wordy one, ‘The World Of Michael Jackson An International Club’, is going to have to be crossed off the list straight away.

‘Bad’ would probably be alright, so long as the official logo from the Michael Jackson album of the same name isn’t used. Although, I don’t know, some people might not think that was a great name for a radio show. Honestly, it’s a minefield. You can’t even just call it ‘Michael Jackson’!

Maybe the new title will just have to not be related to Michael Jackson at all. I don’t know, how many contestants are there? Could you call it ‘The Fab Four’?