Maybe their star has waned. Perhaps one member thinks they can fair better if they go it alone. Or maybe it’s just down to the old favourite “creative differences”. Whatever the reason, bands break up all the time. And following a break up, disputes as to who has the right to use the old band name often follow. In this article, the team at Dawn Ellmore Employment take a look at some of the band name disputes that have arisen between former members of some of the world’s largest rock bands.
After the demise of the original Pink Floyd, the 1980s saw both Roger Walters and David Gilmour touring with two different bands, both using the “Pink Floyd” name.
After their success in the late-1980s American hard rock scene, Guns N’ Roses had started to self-implode by the early 1990s. Following the departure of guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler, vocalist and Axl Rose reportedly insisted that the remaining and replacement band members signed contracts which demanded sole ownership of the band’s name – though it appears that this action never became legally-binding.
American rockers Steppenwolf are perhaps best known for their 1968 hit “Born to be Wild”, but once the group had disbanded (for the second time) in the mid-1970s, former bassist Nick St. Nicholas and keyboard player Goldy McJohn formed a new band which they passed off as the “New Steppenwolf”. This prompted former band mates John Kay and Jerry Edmonton to take legal action, as they owned the rights to use the name.
Interestingly, the court held that St. Nicholas and McJohn were not barred by contract law or trade mark law from using the phrases “Formerly of Steppenwolf,” “Original Member(s) of Steppenwolf,” and “Original Founding Member(s) of Steppenwolf” in promotional materials for their new band, provided that these phrases were less prominent than references to the new band.
Another band name dispute involving a high profile rock band involved the UK heavy metal pioneers Deep Purple, who brought suit against the band’s original vocalist Rod Evans, in order to prevent him from using the names “Deep Purple” and “New Deep Purple” in connection with live performances.
Despite the fact that the “original” Deep Purple had line up and disbanded and ceased performing many years before the attempted resurrection of the name, the court found that the Deep Purple mark was still in use given that the group’s recordings were still being distributed. As a result of this, the court prevented Evans and his new band from further use of the Deep Purple names.
American surf rock band The Beach Boys sued former member (and old school friend) Al Jardine to prevent him from using the “Beach Boys” name in conjunction with his new project “Family & Friends”. The court found in favour of the Beach Boys, and Jardine was prevented from using the names “Al Jardine of the Beach Boys and Family & Friends”, “The Beach Boys ‘Family and Friends’”, “Beach Boys Family & Friends”, “The Beach Boys, Family & Friends”, “Beach Boys and Family”; as well as the name “The Beach Boys” itself.
A fact of note in this case is that The Beach Boys created a corporation that owned and licensed the right to the band’s name, and this corporation was able to stop an unlicensed band member from using the band name.
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Dawn Ellmore Employment was incorporated in 1995 and is a market leader in intellectual property and legal recruitment.