Bob Marley's Family Sues to Stop Half-Brother From Using Singer's Name and Likeness
Lawsuit brought by Marley family entity is the latest case testing who gets to own and exploit a famous name.
Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, the entity run by the widow and nine children of late reggae superstar Bob Marley, is going to court to protect the Marley marks from Richard Booker, a half-brother of the singer. According to a lawsuit filed in Florida federal court on Thursday, Booker has been using Marley's name and image for music festivals and plans to use it in other commercial endeavors. The estate is seeking an injunction against further exploitation of Bob Marley's likeness.
In 2007, Booker filed a trademark application on "Mama Marley," intending to use the mark on a variety of products, from steamed cakes of smashed fish to low calorie coffee to flavored soft drinks. The application signaled an intent to use "Mama Marley" to open some sort of hotel, bar or restaurant service.
The Marley estate opposed the registration on grounds it would confuse consumers and dilute its own Marley intellectual property. The opposition has been pending since 2008.
In the meantime, Booker allegedly owns and operates the website, bomarleymovement.com, and has been promoting an annual music festival in Miami, Florida, referring to it at times as the "Marley Fest."
The plaintiff believes such activity will cause irreparable damage to the Bob Marley brand and is now seeking profits and treble damages for allegedly willful infringement.
Disputes between a celebrity's favored relatives and those family members cut out of the will aren't uncommon, particularly because it's easy to exploit a famous shared last name. As one example, Experience Hendrix, the estate of famed rock star Jimi Hendrix, is currently in court with HendrixLicensing.com, partially owned by Jimi's blood brother Leon, over t-shirts, posters, lights, dartbords, key chains and other items allegedly designed to capitalize on the rock legend.
Some living celebrities have also battled family members attempting to capitalize on a famous last name. The most notable recent case involves Larry Flynt, who sued two of his nephews who sought to distribute pornography under the "Flynt Media" umbrella. In 2009, a jury found that the nephews violated their uncle's trademark but not his publicity rights.