Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig in August of 1981. Photographer unknown.
Central District of California Judge Gary Klausner threw out Glenn Danzig’s lawsuit against former band mate Jerry Only on August 6th, stating that Danzig failed to specify which exact terms of a 1994 legal agreement between the Misfits Only violated when the latter began merchandising Misfits emblems under his own name in the early 2000s.
Noting that the ’94 agreement does not “address any obligation regarding trademark registration or negotiations with individual retail merchandisers as to licensing,” Klausner stated “the Court finds no alleged facts that constitute a breach of the merchandising provision…the [original paper] contemplates that [Only] has a non-exclusive right to merchandise…and otherwise exploit the designs…[and to] to retain 100% of earnings from such exploitation…the Court also finds no other terms that govern the parties’ conduct as it pertains to trademarking and licensing.”
Indeed, the original settlement clearly states “the parties shall be co-owners of [the Misfits name] and all logo(s)” with no obligation to communicate with each other concerning merchandising deals, but it also says “each party shall retain exclusive ownership of any artwork created by that party.” That’s where Danzig lost this round, it seems: by not emphasizing that he created many of the designs Only’s been licensing. Danzig’s suit merely says it’s his era of the band that’s most closely associated with that stuff. Had he stated, “I created the ‘Fiend Skull,’ I created the ‘Horror Business’ cover and all the other classic Misfits artwork Jerry’s currently selling on his website,” things would probably be moving forward.
Is Danzig afraid of coming right out and claiming to be the hand behind the Fiend Skull, a.k.a. the Crimson Ghost, now that the Crimson Ghost film serial he took it from is owned by Paramount? I’ve mentioned this previously, but Paramount is well aware of that skull’s value. They wanted an astronomical fee to let me print a still from the serial in my book. I imagine this is why every legal paper refers to the logo as the “Fiend Skull.” They’re dancing around the fact they appropriated their most beloved icon from a property that’s now in the hands of a billion dollar company.
Not that Paramount would necessarily bother going after the Misfits; they didn’t own TCG when the band began using that skull, the band has been using it so long w/o repercussion, and how much in damages could they really get? Nothing compared to their weekly budgets, surely.
It’s unclear what will happen from here. Danzig certainly receives his due for making all those album covers Only is putting on t-shirts. However, Glenn did wait a very long time to flex his legal muscles, and although he made some fine points in his lawsuit they weren’t fine enough. To be honest, I’m more concerned about his next album, the covers album. I want that yaz to drop already. My fingers are crossed that it’s close to release and Glenn will hit the road behind it on a “Tryin’ to Pay My Lawyers” tour.