An upstart Florida clothing company might have to be pay a heavy price after affixing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ logo to one of their jackets. Bravada International, a merchandising company that owns the rights to the logos of the Peppers, Guns n’ Roses and Led Zeppelin (among others) is suing clothing maker Back-Lite, claming Back-Lite caused “irreparable harm” to the band. Back-Lite’s crime?
As the maker of a jacket with “an illuminated pocket on the back in which a transparency can be inserted,” one RHCP fan requested the company put a transparency of the band’s logo on the back for her trip to the Grammy Awards after a friend told her about seeing the jackets at a Florida concert. Usually the company doesn’t deal with patented materials, but Back-Lite boss Gary Shaffer reluctantly accepted her request and made it for her (and ultimately didn’t charge for the jacket, considering it a “promotional item”). It was a one-time violation, Shaffer said, and now Bravado is seeking damages from Back-Lite (as well as several other sellers of “bootleg” merchandise).
“They are claiming there is a possibility that I’ve made over a million dollars in profits on copyrighted merchandise, which is not true,” says Shaffer. Making matters worse, Shaffer isn’t even sure he can afford a lawyer. Bravado attorney Kenneth Feinswog offered Shaffer a settlement that will cost him $3,500, which Shaffer calls “extortion.” Shaffer is seeking legal advice and isn’t sure what his next step will be, but he says jokingly, “For $3,500, maybe at least people will know who Gary Shaffer is and what Black-Lite is.” The Peppers themselves have no comment on the suit. In a statement, a representative from Bravado said, “Mr. Shaffer and his company American Light LLC are not being sued for $11 million. In fact, we’ve asked Mr. Shaffer and American Light LLC to immediately cease infringing upon the band’s logo, and we’ve made numerous good faith gestures to settle this blatant trademark violation amicably. We stand by our artists and will protect the rights they have to their own property from such misuse.”