While Greg Ginn might have founded Black Flag, that apparently isn’t worth much in a court of law. The guitarist has lost a lawsuit against FLAG, a spinoff of the band featuring former Black Flag members Keith Morris, Dez Cadena and Bill Stevenson. Ginn’s lawsuit also alleged that Henry Rollins was continuing to use the iconic Black Flag logo and the band name in a misleading way.
It was strange enough that Ginn would wait so long to file a lawsuit, but apparently once FLAG started playing out, he probably felt like he had to. Regardless, the California court quickly ruled against Ginn and his label, SST. It found that he never had any individual rights to the band’s trademarks. The most interesting thing to come out of the lawsuit, as Spin notices, is that Henry Rollins never quit Black Flag. I guess that means he’s still in the band! Here’s what the court found.
(1) the court found that SST had no rights in the trademarks;
(2) Ginn seemed to have no individual rights in the Black Flag trademarks;
(3) even if either had had any rights in those marks, they had abandoned those rights through a failure to police the mark for nearly 30 years;
(4) the defendants’ claim that the Black Flag assets were owned by a statutory partnership comprised of various former band members – even if these members only consisted of Henry and Ginn, based on (a) accepting Ginn’s argument that he never quit and given that there is no evidence or allegation that Henry ever quit – has merit;
(5) that even if the plaintiffs had some trademark claim in the marks, there was no likelihood of consumer confusion between Black Flag and Flag given the ample press coverage over the dispute; and
(6) the trademark application and registration that Henry and Keith made was done in good faith (e.g. not fraudulently) – and is thus not necessarily subject to cancellation – given that they understood their actions to have been done on the part of the Black Flag partnership (see No. 4, above).