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Ex-J. Geils Stars Can’t Silence Trademark Suit

(CN) - The former front man of the J. Geils Band, which scored a hit in 1981 with "Centerfold," can pursue trademark claims over a reunion tour that excluded him, a federal judge ruled.

John Geils Jr. allegedly formed the band in Boston in the late 1960s, and toured with the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith while performing "Freeze-Frame," "Love Stinks" and other hits.

After the band disbanded in 1984, the Francesca Records label signed Geils as a solo artist.

Geils sued his former bandmates in 2012 for using the J. Geils Band trademark to market a reunion tour, which excluded him, and their appearance in the upcoming Adam Sandler movie "Grown Ups 2."

The other musicians claimed Geils had signed a shareholder agreement for T&A, an entity created by the band in the 1970s, that stipulated Geils may not use the band's name for his solo work and the trademark belongs to the band as a whole.

U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor refused Tuesday to dismiss the case.

"The language of the shareholder agreement does not directly address the ownership rights to the marks," Saylor wrote. "Instead, the relevant provision appears to deal with the shareholders' rights 'to use the name 'The J. Geils Band' or the name 'J. Geils' or any other name containing the word 'Geils' or any name confusingly similar to any of such names' (emphasis added). This could be read, among other ways, as a license to use the mark, rather than a transfer of the ownership of the mark." (Parentheses in original.)

Geils claimed that his former bandmates used the trademark to promote J. Geils Band performances, but that he neither participated in nor authorized the actions.

"The complaint alleges that a consumer would expect Geils to be part of a performance of the J. Geils Band," Saylor explained. "Furthermore, plaintiffs allege that defendants, through their attorneys, caused Geils to forgo at least one performance and change the name of his act for another."

Geils also claimed that he signed the shareholder agreement in 1982 under duress and was denied an opportunity to consult his own attorney.

"Although the complaint is hardly a model of clarity or brevity, it lays out a number of ascertainable grounds that could support a finding that the terms of the shareholder agreement do not bar plaintiffs' claims," Saylor wrote.

If proven, the allegations"could prevent the shareholder agreement from operating to bar this suit on the basis of any one of the asserted invalidity arguments," the decision from Boston adds.

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