MANHATTAN (CN) – Jimi Hendrix’s estate claims in a federal complaint that five companies affiliated with his brother are selling unauthorized food, alcohol and marijuana products, violating copyrights and trademarks.
Experience Hendrix LLC and Authentic Hendrix LLC sued Leon Hendrix and Andrew Pitsicalis; Purple Haze Properties and Rockin’ Artwork, both of Nevada; C-Life Group, of New York; and Carmen Cottone dba Partners and Players and dba Dynasty Gourmet Foods, all of New York.
The March 16 complaint says Experience Hendrix is the successor-in-interest to the guitar legend’s estate and “the sole owner of the copyrights and trademark rights owned by Jimi Hendrix.” Along with Authentic Hendrix, Experience “carefully developed a licensing program around their Jimi Hendrix-related trademarks and copyrights,” having acquired the federally registered and common law trademarks to Hendrix's likeness and works in 1996.
Al Hendrix, Jimi’s father, died in 2002 and left the estate to several family members, but “expressly excluded Leon Hendrix and his family” from the management team, according to the 15-count, 64-page complaint.
Experience Hendrix says that in the past 10 years Pitsicalis and Leon Hendrix and their companies “attempted to hijack plaintiffs’ trademarks and copyrights for their own personal gain.”
Experience Hendrix has a long, litigious history with the defendants, and says it won injunctions against them in 2008 and 2015 for selling vodka, clothing and artwork featuring Jimi’s likeness without their consent.
The defendants tried to sell the alcoholic liqueur “Purple Haze” using Hendrix’s likeness as recently as last year, but a U.S. District Court in Georgia issued a permanent injunction that stopped it, ruling that Jimi’s likeness could not be used on the bottle of booze.
In the latest round of trademark fighting, Hendrix’s estate says that since late 2015, the defendants have unlawfully promoted, packaged, marketed, advertised, licensed, and sold Jimi Hendrix Cannabis, edibles, food, wine, teas, alcohol, “medicines,” and electronic products that used his image, name and signature without their consent.
Among the many products cited in the complaint are a line of speakers called “Jimi Jams;” a line of reefers called “Jimi Cannabis Collection: Purple Haze;” cannabis-infused “drugs” called “Jimi’s Genetix;” and a line of T-shirts and apparel called “Grizzly x Hendrix.” The estate also claims the defendants have sold rolling papers, bongs, dab rags, video games, hot sauce, vaporizers, and “other ancillary marijuana products” bearing Hendrix’s name and likeness, all of which infringe on their trademarks.
Some of the infringing products are particularly problematic because the estate says that it “decided early in their business model not to license the Hendrix marks, or Jimi Hendrix music, for use in the promotion of alcohol, tobacco, illegal or recreational drug products.”
The estate says Pitsicalis regularly claims that he and the defendants represent Jimi Hendrix, though two of his federal trademark applications, for JIMI and JIMI JAMS, were rejected for similarities to the estate’s marks.
“Defendants’ unlawful actions are intentionally designed to capitalize on the goodwill, recognition and fame associated with the plaintiffs’ Jimi Hendrix marks and rights,” the estate says.
It seeks an injunction and damages for trademark and copyright infringement, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, New York business law and other charges. It is represented by Dorothy Weber with Shukat Arrow Hafer Weber & Herbsman.
Thomas Osinski, who represents Leon Hendrix, Pitsicalis and other defendants, told Courthouse News in an email that “in short, the suit is B.S.”
Osinski added: “It boils down to the Estate claiming nobody else can do Jimi [Hendrix] products, which the courts have slapped them down on time and time again.”
Osinski, out of Tacoma, Washington, said his clients can cite numerous precedents for their right to conduct business. Experience Hendrix, for example, has no trademarks in cannabis, he said.
“Our products are the first in this category and set the precedent,” Osinski said. “My clients will be vigorously defending this latest onslaught and filing appropriate counter suits and/or counterclaims to vindicate their rights and punish these … false attacks once and for all.”
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.