He was perhaps the greatest rock guitarist, leaving behind music that forever changed the genre. But in the four decades since his death, there have been a number of legal battles over the estate controlling his music, name and merchandise bearing his likeness.
Now Leon Hendrix, younger brother of legendary Jimi Hendrix, has prevailed in trademark litigation with a company controlled by his sister, Janie Hendrix.
Leon’s Las Vegas company had been selling Jimi-related merchandise until companies controlled by Janie, Leon’s sister by adoption, filed legal claims in the state of Washington to stop the sales.
However, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington recently declared unconstitutional the state’s law that Janie sought to use to protect the her interests.
After Jimi’s death in 1970 at the age of 27, his estate was inherited by his father, Al Hendrix. When Al died in 2002, his adopted daughter Janie was left in charge of the companies controlling the estate. According to reports, Al didn’t provide a position with the estate or income from it for Leon.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, the companies controlled by Janie in 2009 launched litigation against Leon’s merchandising venture, co-owned with Las Vegas businessman Andrew Pitsicalis, alleging trademark infringement.
Leon’s company was selling t-shirts, artwork, home décor and posters emblazoned with the Hendrix name and likeness.
But the judge found that Janie’s companies hold “no post-mortem rights of publicity and they cannot preclude anyone from creating and then selling sketches, portraits, caricatures, dolls, bobbleheads or other likenesses of Jimi Hendrix.”
Leon and his partner now plan to resume sales that were halted due to the litigation.
A trademark lawsuit between the parties continues, featuring counterclaims against Janie’s companies.
Resource: Las Vegas Sun: “Las Vegas Jimi Hendrix merchandiser wins round in lawsuit”: February 9, 2011