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J. Geils Sues His Former Bandmates

BOSTON (CN) - J. Geils says in court that his former bandmates falsely claim that the J. Geils Band trademark belongs to the band as a whole - not to Geils - and are using it live shows and in the upcoming Adam Sandler movie "Grown Ups 2."

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The lengthy and somewhat self-congratulatory federal complaint describes Geils as a "guitar legend" and "one of America's most revered musicians."

Geils says he founded the J. Geils Band in Boston in 1967. Best known for the hits "Centerfold," "Freeze-Frame" and "Love Stinks," the band recorded albums and toured with included Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, among others, until it disbanded in 1984, according to the complaint.

After the split, Geils claims, he performed with other musicians, always under the name J. Geils or Jay Geils. He claims that his former bandmates and the companies set up to distribute royalties "were well aware of J. Geils' ... performances, including, in particular, the use of the names and trademarks Geils, Jay Geils and J. Geils in related promotions, advertisements and general media and publicity and ... never objected to such use - until now."

The parties to the complaint are Francesca Records and John W. Geils Jr. vs. Geils Unlimited LLC, T and R Research and Development Corp., Geils Reunion, Nick Ben-Meir, Seth Justman, Daniel Klein, Richard Salwitz, and Peter Blankfield aka Peter Wolf.

The complaint states that "as one of his initial contributions to Francesca Records LLC, J. Geils contributed his rights, title and ownership to the J. Geils Band trademark to Francesca Records LLC, which was transferred to Francesca Records in 2009."

But Geils claims that in late 2011, the director of T&A Research and Development, which was created to handle the band's royalties and revenue, sent Geils' business partner a letter stating: "'It has come to our attention that the name 'J. Geils' has been trademarked. What J would not tell us is whether the trademarking is for 'J. Geils' or 'J. Geils Band.' If it is for J's name only then, of course, that is perfectly fine.' He added: 'If, however, you have trademarked the J. Geils Band, then we must advise you that the rights to such a trademark belong to the group as a whole, and we would urge you to correct the situation as soon as possible, in order to avoid misunderstandings amongst the members of the group.'"

T&A's lawyer then sent a cease and desist letter in December 2011 to a venue in Foxborough, Mass., "claiming that the venue had no right to use the name J. Geils or the J. Geils Band trademark in connection with an upcoming performance by J. Geils," and as a result, the promoter canceled the show, according to the complaint.

J. Geils claims that T&A applied to register the J. Geils Band trademark and "claim[ed] it first used the J. Geils Band trademark in commerce in 1969, although no precise month or day was given."

Geil protests: "Neither T&A nor any individual or entity, other than J. Geils from 1967 to 2003 and Francesca Records from 2003 to the present, has any right to claim ownership of the J. Geils Band trademark," the complaint states.

He claims a second cease and desist letter, sent to the Sweetwater Music Hall in May 2012. "claimed to represent 'all of the current members of the J. Geils Band," though Geils says that "at the time of the ... letter, J. Geils had been a 'current' member of the band ... [and] T&A specifically had admitted that J. Geils was a member of the band."

Geils claims that the other band members "have planned and conspired to exclude J. Geils from performing with ... the J. Geils Band, despite the fact that none of the defendants have any rights, title or interest in the J. Geils Band trademark and despite the fact that no performance using the J. Geils Band trademark has ever occurred without J. Geils, i.e., from 1967 to 2012, J. Geils always appeared with the J. Geils Band."

The complaint continues: "In or about May 2012, plaintiffs discovered that the J. Geils Band was purportedly scheduled to participate in the filming of a new Adam Sandler film, 'Grown Ups 2.' However, plaintiffs were never informed by defendants about any such participation and plaintiffs have not given permission for the J. Geils Band trademark to be included in the film."

Geils' complaint cites 12 upcoming tour dates in the fall and winter of 2012, booked "using the J. Geils Band trademark, without the authorization, consent or permission of Francesca Records."

Despite media reports that "J. Geils 'will not be joining this tour due to an ongoing legal dispute,'" Geils says, he was never invited to join the tour.

He seeks declaratory judgment that he and Francesca Records own the J. Geils Band trademark, an accounting and damages for tortuous interference, deceptive trade, and trademark infringement.

Geils is represented by Keith Glidden, with Verrill Dana, of Boston.

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