Federal Court Finds Jimi Hendrix Relatives Guilty of Trademark Infringement

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Jimi Hendrix in 1967 (public domain)

A New York federal court has found two relatives of Jimi Hendrix, Leon Hendrix and his daughter Tina Hendrix, guilty of trademark infringement.

Digital Music News obtained an exclusive copy of the corresponding legal filing, which Judge Paul A. Engelmayer just recently signed. (Separately, Judge Engelmayer in April of 2020 approved Tekashi 6ix9ine’s early release, before sentencing the rapper’s kidnapper to 24 years behind bars in November.) Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix, “the owners of copyrights and trademarks associated with the late singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix,” initiated the underlying courtroom confrontation in March of 2017.

In the lawsuit, Experience Hendrix accused the 72-year-old Leon Hendrix, his business partner Andrew Pitsicalis, and “related corporate entities” of trademark infringement, copyright infringement, false advertising, and more. For context, Jimi Hendrix, who was by 1969 the world’s highest-paid performer, didn’t have a will when he passed away in 1970. His father, Al, received his savings and assets.

The elder Hendrix passed in 2002, leaving control of the estate to Jimi’s stepsister, Janie Hendrix, in his will and disinheriting Leon, who later filed a much-publicized lawsuit. (In 2004, a judge ruled that Leon was entitled solely to the gold record that his father had left him in the will.) Janie Hendrix is also the founder of Experience Hendrix.

As part of the more recent lawsuit between Experience Hendrix and Leon Hendrix, the court in late October of 2019 “entered a permanent injunction for plaintiffs against Pitsicalis’s and Leon Hendrix’s corporate entities.” Then, in July of 2020, a different judge determined that Experience Hendrix was entitled to damages for the defendants’ “brazen disregard” of the IP rights, which included closing agreements for Jimi Hendrix-branded electronics, foods, and even cannabis, to name just some.

The court entered a more than $400,000 judgement last July, as well as a second, overarching “permanent injunction in favor of Experience Hendrix.” (Just two days before the decision was made official, Sony Music’s Thread Shop formally announced “an online Jimi Hendrix store” with Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix.)

In October of 2020, however, the plaintiffs filed a motion for civil contempt over purported violations of the permanent injunction committed by Leon Hendrix, Tina Hendrix, and the Hendrix Music Academy (HMA) that they operate. The court ruled in late November that these parties had been properly served; Tina received the notice via email and responded on her behalf and on behalf of the HMA, though she, “as a non-lawyer, cannot represent a corporation.”

While Tina Hendrix and the HMA weren’t named in Experience Hendrix’s original complaint, “they are covered by multiple provisions of the permanent injunction” because of their relation to Leon (Tina is a governor and registered agent of the HMA).

Moreover, the legal text discloses four instances of “noncompliance” concerning then permanent injunction: Leon’s promoting the sale of a purported Jimi Hendrix guitar at an auction house; his and Tina’s hosting a “Jimi Hendrix 50th Anniversary Memorial Peace & Love March for Equity” in September of 2020, complete with Jimi Hendrix merch sales, to raise money for the HMA; selling a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt to secure funds for the HMA; and soliciting donations using Jimi Hendrix’s name.

Lastly, the court has ordered Leon, Tina, and the HMA to “immediately” cease and desist all prohibited conduct, change the HMA’s name to show that it’s not affiliated with Jimi Hendrix, cease using the HMA’s current web address, destroy all HMA merch featuring Hendrix’s likeness, and provide a list of all the revenue it’s generated from donations and product sales.

Because Tina and the HMA weren’t named in the initial suit, once again, the court has put them “on notice that future violations of this order…will be met with substantial sanctions.” Inversely, Leon Hendrix must pay the legal fees that the plaintiffs incurred when enforcing the permanent injunction, in addition to “a penalty of $100 per day to plaintiffs” in the event that he doesn’t meet the above-outlined requirements.