With the 50th anniversary of famed rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s death fast approaching, it would seem reasonable to assume that any legal uncertainty and attendant acrimony involving his estate would be eclipsed and fading fast in the rear-view mirror of time.
Not even close.
Hendrix died in 1970. Now, decades later, two opposing sides staking a claim to the enduring residuals associated with his estate (more on that below) are battling furiously in court.
One side — which alleges that it is Hendrix’s sole lawful estate and has exclusive ownership and control over trademarks relevant to a dizzyingly broad catalogue of music and merchandize — contends that the other is infringing those rights and unlawfully profiting thereby. The estate brought a lawsuit earlier this month seeking to enforce its claims against Hendrix’s brother Leon and companies that one media report states sell “Hendrix-themed products.”
That argument, counters Leon, is entirely without merit, who formally responded to it by filing a counterclaim against the estate — principally, Hendrix’s stepsister Janie — alleging misrepresentation, tortious interference, defamation, trade libel and other wrongdoing. Leon says Janie has rights to only the deceased artist’s musical works and other limited properties and absolutely no entitlement to exclusively profit from Jimi Hendrix’s likeness or personality.
Our readers might surmise that things could have turned out differently in the wake of Hendrix’s passing, specifically as regards clarity in terms of what the famed performer would have wanted concerning his estate.
And they certainly could have — had the artist taken purposeful action to craft an estate plan.
Unfortunately, he did not. Hendrix never even got around to writing a will prior to his death.
And so his relatives continue to argue, nearly half a century following his passing.
There is unquestionably an instructive strain implicit in the complex narrative surrounding Hendrix’s ongoing estate battle.
And that is this: Making timely and well-considered planning decisions prior to death can eliminate lingering animosities and constant legal challenges years later.