Over the weekend it turned particularly nasty as one of the band's founders, Greg Ginn, launched legal proceedings against the members of FLAG (the band featuring former Black Flag members Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson and Dez Cadena as well as Descendents' Stephen Edgerton) and former Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins, who has not taken part in either reunion.
It's the use of the iconic Black Flag logo, as well as the name FLAG, that has Ginn in such a state, saying the band are in violation of 15 U.S.C. Section 1125.
The Hollywood Reporter obtained access to a copy of the lawsuit, which you can read here.
Ginn's SST Records filed for the ownership of the wordmark Black Flag on Friday 21 June of this year and filed for ownership of the Black Flag logo on Wednesday 26 June this year, but has been releasing records and producing merchandise with the Black Flag name and logo continuously since 1978.
The suit says that FLAG began playing under the logo in or about May 27, 2013 and have been selling “musical services and clothing” featuring said logo since that time. Ginn and SST also allege that the band are using the term Black Flag in the promotion of their gigs on social media and in other promotional material. The suit states an overlap in the trade areas of both the plaintiff and defendants (the United States and California specifically stipulated) as well as the nature of services (which is, of course, playing music).
Ginn and SST claim that the term FLAG is a “colorable imitation of plaintiff's service mark and trademark” and that its use “is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception among consumers as to the source, quality, and nature of defendants' entertainment services and merchandise.”
They believe that Flag are unfairly benefiting from the advertising, sales and consumer recognition, alleging that the FLAG members have made “substantial” profits courtesy of Ginn's Black Flag having such a good name in the marketplace. The actual amount of these substantial profits will be determined at trial.
On top of that, Ginn and SST are saying that they have been deprived of significant income due to the aforementioned confusion.
The suit states that Ginn and SST are caused “substantial injury” by the actions of FLAG, stating that they'll suffer “loss of customers, dilution of its goodwill, confusion of existing and potential customers, injury to its reputation and diminution of the value of its products”. Such injury is said to be “imminent and irreparable”.
The language becomes more serious as the suit goes on, Ginn and SST alleging that FLAG are “attempting to deceive the public and unfairly profit from Ginn's reputation in the trade.”
Dukowski (real name Gary McDaniel) sued Ginn and SST back in 2007, alleging that he deserved revenue from the sale of Black Flag related products as he was a member of the band. The two parties settled out of court, but one of the conditions of the settlement was that Dukowski “would never perform under, make use of, or profit from the Marks.”
So how does Henry Rollins fit in? After all, he hasn't been involved in either reunion.
Ginn and SST allege that both Keith Morris and Henry Garfield (Rollins' real name) in September of 2012 registered the Black Flag logo and word mark with the US Trademark Office. In doing so, Ginn and SST allege that they lied under oath, stating that there was no other person, firm, corporation or association operating under the Black Flag name. It is alleged they claimed to be operating under the name and logo since 1978; Ginn is saying they haven't done so in well over 20 years.
The suit states the defendants have conducted “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business practices” in a “wilful or wanton nature” in “bad faith”.
Ginn is looking for all profits that FLAG have made over the past few months, as well as three times the damages caused by the alleged infringement, plus court costs and court decided punitive damages.
Where do you stand? Have FLAG ripped Greg Ginn off, has his goodwill be diluted because of it? Or has he gone too far?
One thing seems pretty certain; this probably won't end pleasantly.
Ginn's Black Flag tour Australia in November.