EDM superstar Deadmau5 is waging a legal battle against Emma Bassiri, a Canadian-born entrepreneur who operates a cat-themed apparel website out of South Florida called Meowingtons.com. For fans of the Canadian DJ/producer, whose real name is Joel Zimmerman, that name should sound familiar — it’s also the name of his cat, Professor Meowingtons Ph.D.

Bassiri launched her business in 2014, shortly after graduating from Toronto’s OCAD University. She was inspired by her love of cats (she owns a Persian named Mooshi) and by the viral success she saw in YouTube cat videos.

Zimmerman argues she’s a fan who stole his cat’s name for her business. And because he wants to trademark Professor Meowingtons’ name in the United States, but can’t since Bassiri owns Meowingtons.com and the trademark for Meowingtons to sell apparel and accessories, he has filed a legal petition requesting that Bassiri's mark be canceled.

Meowingtons.com logo; Credit: Courtesy Meowingtons.com

Meowingtons.com logo; Credit: Courtesy Meowingtons.com

In strict terms, Deadmau5’s cat has held the name for longer (Zimmerman adopted and named him in 2010), and the furry Prof's owner has been using the Meowingtons name on promotional materials and merchandise for longer. He even put Professor Meowingtons on the cover of his 2012 release, Album Title Goes Here.

But in strict legal terms, says Bassiri's attorney Michael Santucci, Zimmerman hasn’t been using “Meowingtons” as a brand name. “In the U.S., you do get trademark rights by establishing a name on a brand,” Santucci explains, “but there’s a certain way it has to be done, and you only get the trademark on the products you use it on.

“Zimmerman was using his cat to promote his music, but he never established Meowingtons as a brand. Maybe the image was on the T-shirt, but the name wasn’t on the tag on the T-shirt. He was using the name in a decorative way; that’s not a real trademark.”

Santucci also disputes Zimmerman's claim that his client must have been aware of Professor Meowington's existence when she founded her company and trademarked its name. “Ms. Bassiri is not currently, and has never been a fan of, or ever met Mr. Zimmerman,” he said in a written statement issued earlier this week.

The two parties initially tried to settle things amicably, but Zimmerman “drew a line in the sand” when Bassiri and her company wouldn’t meet all of his demands, Santucci says. So Bassiri's company, Meowingtons LLC, is now suing Zimmerman for his own attempts to lay claim to the Meowingtons brand. (You can read the full 24-page suit here, and Zimmerman's trademark petition here.)

Meowingtons.com founder Emma Bassiri; Credit: Courtesy of Meowingtons.com

Meowingtons.com founder Emma Bassiri; Credit: Courtesy of Meowingtons.com

“Now I am forced to litigate this woman out of existence,” Zimmerman said in a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday. (A representative for Zimmerman referred L.A. Weekly to the Hollywood Reporter piece and declined further comment.)

“The act of naming your pet animal is not protected by the trademark laws of any country of which I am aware,” Santucci said in his written statement. “The mouse (Zimmerman) is clearly the copycat in this case, and our legal team is confident that Ms. Bassiri, a creative and hardworking entrepreneur who has built a successful online retailing business, Meowingtons.com, inspired by her love of cats, will prevail as the rightful and sole owner of the mark ‘Meowingtons.'”

Even though Deadmau5 is one of the world's most highly paid DJs, claiming to earn upwards of $400,000 per appearance, Santucci says this isn’t a case of big cat versus house cat. “I’m not saying my client has as much money as Zimmerman, but her business has been very successful, and the company can afford to take this case all the way to trial.”

So which cat will win? It will be some time before we find out. The two camps’ respective lawyers will get together to try to come to a solution, and if one can’t be met, the case will go to trial in about a year and a half.

In the meantime, Santucci has thrown down a challenge for Deadmau5.

“For every Tweet or statement he makes to the media about the case, I challenge him to donate to the Broward County Humane Society,” Santucci says. “In return, my client will donate to the animal welfare charity of Zimmerman’s choice every time we do the same.”

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