Jimi Hendrix estate sues brother for trademark infringement

The estate of rock musician Jimi Hendrix has filed a lawsuit against Hendrix’s brother Leon, alleging trademark and copyright infringement.

Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix, two companies founded by the estate of Jimi Hendrix, brought the claim on Thursday, March 16 at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Leon Hendrix and others allegedly attempted to “hijack trademarks and copyrights for their own personal gain”, despite courts “having repeatedly prohibited such activities”.

The suit claimed that Leon Hendrix and another defendant, Andrew Pitsicalis, ignored prohibitions and sold cannabis, food and alcohol, thereby infringing trademarks and copyright.  

“In support of that campaign, Pitsicalis has widely claimed that he has secured the IP of the Jimi Hendrix estate for licensed products,” said the claim.

The estate owns numerous trademarks, including ‘Jimi Hendrix’ and ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’, and design marks of the signature of Jimi Hendrix and an image (head or bust) of him.

In 2005, Leon Hendrix and Pitsicalis began operating Electric Hendrix, according to the claim, marketing vodka and merchandise using Jimi Hendrix ‘signature’ and ‘headshot’ marks.

Two years later, the estate started an action, and in 2008 the court held that Electric Hendrix had infringed the estate’s trademarks, according to the claim.

“The court prohibited Electric Hendrix and its employees, including Pitsicalis, from using the plaintiffs’ ‘headshot’ logo, or any similar mark, brand or logo, and Jimi Hendrix signature, or any similar signature, in the sale of alcohol or other goods,” said the claim.

Pitsicalis launched hendrixlicensing.com in 2008 to sell Jimi Hendrix merchandise.

The estate sued again, and in May 2015 the US District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an amended permanent injunction, prohibiting Pitsicalis from using a ‘guitar and headshot’ logo in connection with art and apparel.

However, it didn’t end there.

In 2014 Leon Hendrix and Pitsicalis had formed a business relationship with Tiger Paw Beverages to create a line of alcoholic beverages using the Hendrix marks and copyright.

In January 2017, the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a permanent injunction enjoining the defendants from using the word ‘Jimi’ or ‘Hendrix’ in the names of their websites, social media profiles and online platforms.

According to the most recent claim, the defendants have infringed by selling marijuana cigarettes called “Jimi Cannabis Collection: Purple Haze”, cannabis-infused products and t-shirts.

“Purple Haze” is a song written by Hendrix in 1967.

Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix are seeking injunctive relief, destruction of the infringing goods, an account of profits, triple damages, attorneys’ fees, and a jury trial.

Thomas Osinski, attorney for Pitsicalis and Leon Hendrix, said: “Experience Hendrix has long known of my clients’ legal and proper Jimi Hendrix products and brings this frivolous suit now, only to further tarnish and interfere with Leon’s lawful and proper business that rightfully respects Jimi Hendrix’s legacy.”

He added that Pitsicalis and Leon Hendrix will be “vigorously defending against this latest onslaught” and filing counter suits to “vindicate their rights and punish these slanderous and false attacks once and for all”.

Osinski disputed some of the allegations included in the latest claim.

With regard to the January 2017 injunction, Osinski said that only internet use was enjoined on a temporary basis during the trial, and expressly with no application to any of Leon Hendrix’s other activities.

“In addition Experience Hendrix sought broad injunctions against Jimi Hendrix-based products, as they do in this current suit, and were denied,” he said.

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