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Classic band caught up in trademark dispute

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2020 | Intellectual Property

Many New York fans love the group Journey and its classic songs, but like other bands of yesteryear, its members have been caught up in lawsuits over their intellectual property. Journey’s hit song “Don’t Stop Believin’” was produced in 1981 and continues to rank today as the most frequently downloaded song of the 20th century. However, the four band mates that once comprised Journey are today divided into two rival camps in a dispute over the band’s trademark and potentially lucrative royalties.

The trademark “Journey” is owned by a company called Nightmare Productions, with six equal shareholders: co-founder Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ross Valory, drummer Steve Smith, vocalist Steve Perry and former band manager Walter Herbert. Initially, the board included only Cain, Schon and Herbert. However, after Valory and Smith expressed a desire to retire, Cain and Schon accused them of fraudulently calling for a shareholder meeting in order to expand the board to include all of the shareholders of the company. Schon and Cain say that they were shocked by the Feb. 13 meeting and its vote to expand the board and filed suit in California seeking a declaratory judgment on their rights to the Journey trademark. They are also accusing Valory and Smith of breaching their fiduciary duties.

A separate company owned by Schon, Cain and Perry received an irrevocable license to the Journey trademark in 1985 as long as any of them kept playing under the band’s name. Now, they are accusing the other original band members of seeking to reap profits from the Journey trademark, which they allege would be illegitimate.

These kinds of conflicts have embroiled many classic bands, but they might be prevented with careful corporate planning and clear agreements on trademarks. An intellectual property lawyer may help business owners to protect their rights.