A federal appeals court has upheld a $300,000 trademark infringement verdict against companies that used Reggae icon Bob Marley’s photos and images on T-shirts and other merchandise sold in department stores.
Marley’s children, who control Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, sued and won a verdict in 2011 against A.V.E.L.A., Jem Sportswear, X One X Movie Archive and Leo Valencia and Freeze violated the Lanham Act.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court Appeals upheld the verdict Friday and the trial judge’s order that Freeze willfully infringed the rights and that A.V.E.L.A. and X One X Movie were liable for attorney fees.
Marley became a pop idol who championed social change and 30 years after his death continues to command an ever-growing audience with millions of dollars in annual revenue.
Hope Road, owned by his children, granted a company called Zion exclusive license to design, manufacture and sell t-shirts and other merchandise with Marley’s image.
The defendants in this case began selling competing Marley merchandise and artwork, without the required rights, to target, Walmart and other large retailers.
In 2008, Hope Road sued. The jury awarded $300,000 in compensatory damages and later the trial judge assessed A.V.E.L.A.’s net profits at $348,000, Jem’s at $414,000 and Freeze’s at $19,000 and ordered them to pay these amounts in 2012.
The appeals panel found a likelihood of consumer confusion over the official t-shirt and memorabilia and those made by infringers.
Case: Fixty-Six Hope Road Music v. AVELA, No. 12-17519