The warring parties of Only and Danzig in 1983. Photo by Bill Daniel.
You bet your life there’s gonna be a fight: Misfits bassist Jerry Only and his lawyers have moved to dismiss the lawsuit Misfits founder Glenn Danzig brought against Only in May for trademark infringement and breach of contract, claiming Danzig has no evidence to back his myriad allegations and also that the singer waited too long to make this legal move.
“By his own insistence, Danzig has had no association with the Misfits since at the latest 1994,” Only’s filing state, going on to make the accusation that the singer is attempting to “unfairly profit” from “belatedly recogniz[ing] the [Misfits’] value” (Danzig is seeking $75,000 in damages from profits lost due to Only’s activities). The term “naked money grab” is also used at one point, which conjures up quite the image if you’re not expecting it in relation to Glenn Danzig.
Danzig’s original suit alleges that in the early 2000s Jerry Only fraudulently put his name on various Misfits logos/trademarks that, per a previous legal settlement, were supposed to be co-owned by band members. Only now claims that original settlement did in fact grant him full use of those logos and trademarks, and that even if they hadn’t, Danzig waited too long to do anything about. The statute of limitations in a situation like this is six years; Danzig had patent objections pending against Only for “nearly ten years” with no conclusion, and his lawsuit comes “approximately fourteen [years]” after the disputed breaches of contract.
Danzig concedes that by 2005 he even had actual knowledge of the underlying facts to exercise his purported rights…yet chose to wait nine more years before bringing his claim.”
This could play into Only’s other serious counter: that Danzig can offer no concrete evidence Jerry’s merchandising activities have cost him business. Indeed, there is no specific example cited in Danzig’s claim of a licensing deal gone south thanks to Jerry Only’s interference.
Touching on the aforementioned legal settlement, a.k.a. the 1994 Misfits Agreement: it states that “the parties shall be co-owners of the name and trademarks of the Misfits and all logo(s) and artwork…previously associated therewithin.” However, Jerry now argues that in “renouncing” the band at that time Danzig also renounced his claims to these logos and trademarks. Although there is no specific language in the ’94 Agreement that covers the contingent of a Misfit abandoning his rights, the “Merch” section ends by saying “the plaintiffs and Danzig will each retain 100% of what each earns from the exploitation of merchandising rights and neither [party] has any obligation to account to the other for revenue derived…”
That sounds like it might be tough to beat. Do note the entire merch outline in the ’94 Agreement is but a paragraph long. It would seem Danzig (at that time the defendant) had little idea as to the exact windfalls of cash the Misfits logos would yield in the following decade—thanks, mostly, to his letting Jerry get out there and reform the band without him.
Not everything with Jerry is rock solid here, though. The bassist’s legals throw out a few sentences that are sure to rub longtime fans as dubious at best. To wit: the part about the Crimson Ghost (a.k.a. “the Fiend Skull”) being “uniquely developed by and identified with” Jerry’s ’90s version of the band, a logo he’s claiming “the 1977-1983 incarnation of the Misfits never used as a trademark.”
If he’s referring to the weird 3-D Crimson Ghost that popped up around 1997, sure, that’s undoubtedly a “NewFits” logo, but there is no staggering difference between that emblem and the “Fiend Skull” that appeared on the front of the 1979 “Horror Business” single and the back of the 1980 Beware EP and on the back of 1981’s Walk Among Us album and all over the Misfits’ amplifiers and wrist bands and guitar straps circa ’82.
[Never mind the fact that every “Fiend Skull” in Misfits history is a shallow derivative of something “uniquely developed” by Republic Pictures for a 1940s film serial.]
Even stranger: Jerry’s motion literally says that what is even worse than Danzig making all these claims is the fact the singer filed his papers in California. “[Danzig] seeks to drag [me] 3,000 miles across the country to defend against his deficient claims.” Methinks the $75k Danzig seeks in damages is more crippling than a plane ticket, but who knows, maybe Jerry’s got some paranoia about earthquakes.
Two other bits of interest:
– Jerry Only boasts that he and his company Cyclopian Music “have developed the Misfits into an iconic lifestyle brand”; that translates to “we got the Misfits logo on shoelaces”
– “it is legally irrelevant with what person or entity, if any, consumers associate a mark and, more precisely, this cannot constitute the likelihood of consumer confusion”; Jerry’s missing the point here in the sense that Misfits fans aren’t worried with marketplace overlap, they just want to make sure they’re giving their money to the Misfit they agree most with artistically (even if Danzig is found guilty of framing Jerry for everything in the past three decades there will still be a loyal army of spenders who live to dump their paychecks into his wallet because of How The Gods Kill)
Said it before, saying it again: justice should prevail in this war. May the guilty be punished and the innocent spared. Also, maybe one side or the other could think about putting Googy on a t-shirt? Need to show my pride.