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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Jimmy Flynt Can’t Use Bro’s Hustler Trademark

CINCINNATI (CN) - A federal judge has permanently barred the brother of porn magnate Larry Flynt from ever using the Hustler name, rejecting claims that Jimmy Flynt had Larry's permission to open an unlicensed Hustler retail store.

The trademark dispute at hand is one of several issues at the heart of litigation between the Flynt brothers.

Jimmy launched Hustler News and Gifts in downtown Cincinnati in 1997, but the business was ultimately held liable in the obscenity prosecution against the brothers, and that development that left it saddled with a $10,000 fine and hefty legal fees. Jimmy then opened a new corporation called Hustler Cincinnati in 2000.

As with the original Hustler News and Gifts, Jimmy did not pay for the privilege of using the Hustler name in the new Cincinnati store.

About a year later, he opened Hustler Hollywood Ohio to operate a store in Monroe, but the Larry Flynt received compensation for this entity through a written licensing agreement. Hustler Cincinnati began an identical licensing arrangement with Larry in 2004, but the partners never signed a written agreement.

As family discord soured the Flynt brothers' business relationship, Larry sued to cancel the Hustler trademarks Jimmy was using in the Cincinnati store. Jimmy tried to sidestep the claims by pointing out that Hustler Cincinnati did not operate under a signed licensing agreement.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman rejected these claims in a new order that permanently enjoins Jimmy from using the Hustler name.

"There is no dispute that, even if Jimmy and his accountant, Allie Jackson, were unaware of this unsigned document, both men were aware that the relationship between LFP and Hustler Cincinnati had changed," Bertelsman wrote.

"Larry and Jimmy indisputably entered into an implied licensing arrangement by their conduct," he added. "Jimmy may have initially used the 'Hustler' mark for HNG and Hustler Cincinnati with Larry's permission and for free. But, whatever their original arrangement, it changed by mutual consent and without protest when Jimmy acquiesced with Larry's wishes, and restructured the relationship between Hustler Cincinnati and LFP. Thereafter, Hustler Cincinnati paid licensing fees for years to LFP, uninterrupted and without protest, until family dynamics soured and Jimmy refused to pay."

Bertelsman also rejected Jimmy's "naked license" claim that Larry failed to exercise supervision or control over Hustler Cincinnati's trademark activities. Quality control standards are somewhat lax in close partnerships, such as that between the Flynt brothers, but Larry still undertook these efforts and the quality of Hustler products apparently did not differ from the Cincinnati location as compared with the locations that Larry operates around the country, according to the court.

The Oct. 20 order directs Larry to submit a proposed a injunction within 14 days. Jimmy has seven days thereafter to object, and Larry's reply is due within another seven days of that.

Days earlier, Jimmy filed two federal lawsuits against Larry, seeking $20 million in damages for wrongful termination and other claims.

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