by Doug Moore

Black Flag at Grand Victory, June 2013 (more by PSquared Photography)
Black Flag

The great Black Flag kerfuffle of 2013 may finally be winding down. If you've been following this mess, you probably remember BF founder Greg Ginn suing the members of FLAG (Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, Stephen Egerton, and Bill Stevenson), plus Henry Rollins (just for yuks, y'know?), over the trademark on Black Flag's name and famous "bars" logo back in August.

In a decision that will no doubt rock the world of jurisprudence to its dusty foundations, a judge has ruled against Ginn's claim. There's a good summary of the situation over at SPIN, which goes thusly:

A judge found that: SST has no rights to the Black Flag copyright; Ginn has no special rights to any of the trademarks; neither Ginn nor the label gave a damn about copyrghts or trademarks until now; Rollins never quit Black Flag (!); fans are smart enough to know which band is which; and nobody tried to screw anybody over, so let's all give it a rest.

And here's the legalese version from the same source:

(1) the court found that SST had no rights in the trademarks;

(2) Ginn seemed to have no individual rights in the Black Flag trademarks;

(3) even if either had had any rights in those marks, they had abandoned those rights through a failure to police the mark for nearly 30 years;

(4) the defendants' claim that the Black Flag assets were owned by a statutory partnership comprised of various former band members - even if these members only consisted of Henry and Ginn, based on (a) accepting Ginn's argument that he never quit and given that there is no evidence or allegation that Henry ever quit - has merit;

(5) that even if the plaintiffs had some trademark claim in the marks, there was no likelihood of consumer confusion between Black Flag and Flag given the ample press coverage over the dispute; and

(6) the trademark application and registration that Henry and Keith made was done in good faith (e.g. not fraudulently) - and is thus not necessarily subject to cancellation - given that they understood their actions to have been done on the part of the Black Flag partnership (see No. 4, above).

This turn of events adds insult to injury for Ginn; the media consensus is generally that FLAG have also done better for themselves as a live unit than Black Flag have. I'd like to conclude that we can put this stupid issue to rest now, but somehow I don't think this is over.