Black Flag guitarist and co-founder Greg Ginn can’t prevent some of his former bandmates, including former frontmen Keith Morris and Henry Rollins, from using the group’s iconic “bars” logo and name. This past August, the guitarist filed a lawsuit against a supergroup of ex–Black Flag members, fronted by Morris, that had begun using the name Flag in January, claiming he solely owned the hardcore group’s signifiers. He also included Rollins in his suit, alleging the singer and Morris had attempted to trademark the band name and logo under false pretense. But on Tuesday, a U.S. District Court judge in California denied Ginn’s motion for a preliminary injunction against his former bandmates.
According to the legal order, Ginn was not able to prove sufficiently that he owned the name or logo. In the legal proceedings, the defendants submitted evidence that showed that the name and logo had fallen into “generic use,” because unlicensed band merch has been on the market since at least 2009 and a Japanese company had even registered the band name in 2008, neither of which prompted a response from Ginn or his label, SST. Also, since Flag posters bore a disclaimer explaining that its lineup consisted of former members, the judge decided fans probably could tell the difference between the groups. Last, Ginn wasn’t able to prove that Flag had confused “significant numbers of consumers,” since his evidence consisted of claiming that “at one of his shows, fans asked him if he would be at an upcoming Flag show.” Moreover, the defendants used the widespread media coverage about the two different groups fighting over the moniker as proof that fans likely wouldn’t be confused about who was who. Judge Dean D. Pregerson ended the document by saying that although Ginn may very well be able to prove his case at some point, he hadn’t done a good enough job at this time to stop his former bandmates.
Another part of the document, a section providing background on the case, claims that neither Ginn nor Rollins could agree on who the last member of the band was. It also states that since the group had filed its taxes under the name Black Flag Partnership at one point, that Morris and Rollins’ intention to trademark the name was on behalf of the Black Flag Partnership.
For now, all this means that Flag can carry on business as usual at their November 8th appearance at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. And Ginn’s Black Flag, who announced a new studio album in January, can do the same on their November tour of Australia.