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9th Circuit Opinion In on Hendrix v. Pitsicalis Appeal

We received the 9th Circuit court’s opinion today in the Experience Hendrix v. Pitsicalis case, and reporters and colleagues have been blowing up our phones and email.

Although this does not affect my clients’ rights nationally, the strange result of the 9th Circuit’s ruling today would be that a Jimi Hendrix product sold by his brother Leon Hendrix’s company — within Washington State only — may have issues.

In a modern economy, allowing one state to elect to control what celebrity-based products can and cannot be sold within its borders is an odd result and will surely lead to further litigation.

Thus, my clients will have no choice but to pursue legal recourse at the trial and appellate level to restore Judge Zilly’s common sense ruling against Washington’s outlier status.

Up until yesterday, there was certainty about publicity rights. The law of place where the person lived when he/she died controlled. Tons of cases back this up.

As of 8:43 a.m. Wednesday, however, that isn’t so sure anymore.

Now, where someone died may have nothing to do with their rights in their name, likeness and image. Instead, it may just be up to the individual states where things bearing those names, likenesses and images are sold. Fifty different possible standards. Makes national marketing and distribution a nightmare.

So we are going to have to try and do something about it.

My client, Andrew Pitsicalis, as CEO from the side of co-owner Leon Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix’s brother, offers a personal reflection on the decision:

“Even though this decision doesn’t affect our use of Jimi Hendrix’s personality rights nationally, we are saddened that Jimi’s adopted stepsister continues to litigate to attempt to gain sovereignty of Jimi Hendrix solely in the state of Washington, and monopolize it for herself. Leon Hendrix is saddened that she already had the estate and the music. He asks, ‘What happens to my legacy and my children and direct cousins of Jimi who live in Seattle, who aren’t wanted or allowed to be part of the estate because of my adopted stepsister’s desire to control everything Hendrix in Washington? We have been stripped of rights in our own state where Jimi and his relatives grew up and live. Would that be something Jimi would have wanted, for his brother, nieces, nephews and cousins not to have the right to benefit from his estate?'”

So now we are going to have to take a hard look at our options. There is rehearing with the 9th Circuit itself or even the Supreme Court. We have to ask for that, though, and it’s up to the Court to decide if they want to hear it.

At the same time or after we can also start a new action at the trial level. And we can build the kind of record of impact on commerce and effects out of Washington State the Court wanted to see. Maybe we will do both.

Regardless, I promise you this: yesterday’s ruling was a battle, not the war, so stay tuned for more.

Court Sets Aside 1.4 Million Dollar Verdict Against Leon Hendrix’s Business Partner

Finds verdict was not based on any evidence and awards minimal attorney fees

Seattle, WA (September 26, 2011). Last week the Federal District Court in Seattle set aside nearly all of last May’s 1.4 million dollar jury verdict in favor of the companies in charge of Jimi Hendrix’s Estate against the former companies of Andrew Pitsicalis, the business partner of Jimi Hendrix’s brother Leon Hendrix.  In striking down all but an unchallenged $60,000 of the verdict, the Court found the remainder was not based on evidence but “guesswork and speculation.” The Court also only awarded attorney fees of $50,000 when over 10 times that amount had been requested.

Earlier the same Court declared the Washington State Publicity Rights Act unconstitutional, freeing Jim Hendrix’s publicity rights once and for all. Now only a fair and reasonable amount has been awarded for these long abandoned infringing trademarks.

“Today I feel vindicated in the ongoing saga of my struggle to define my place as Jimi Hendrix’s brother and to play a role in his, and my, legacy,” declared Leon Hendrix. “My business partner, Andrew, and I have won the unambiguous right to deal in Jimi Hendrix products, and now the judgment for my stepsister, Janie, and her companies Experience and Authentic Hendrix reflects a fair and reasonable amount,” he continued.

“More importantly, nothing about this verdict affects our new company, Rockin Artwork, and its ability to deal in images and likenesses of Jimi Hendrix, as well as his original artwork. Nor does it change the ability to use Jimi’s name or song titles in association with those works, which we were also awarded earlier,” said Hendrix. “As a result, Rockin Artwork is a company with a strong future and viable business model that will allow me to play an important and vital role in shaping Jimi’s legacy from my perspective as his brother who grew up with him.”

Leon Hendrix is a board member and owner of Rockin Artwork, offering a host of Jimi Hendrix related products, all created with his input and oversight in order to offer an alternative to the Estate’s products.

When asked for comment, Andrew Pitsicalis said, “I am honored and humbled that the system worked and this chapter is now over with a fair and just outcome.”

“I am only saddened that it took two and half years, nine lawyers, and over a million dollars in fees on the Estate’s part when we have been offering her everything she won and to work with her from before the beginning,“ he continued. “All I ever wanted was to help Leon play his role in Jimi’s legacy, not fighting legal battles with his stepsister.”

Company Information: Hendrix Licensing was formed in early 2008 with the intentions of releasing Jimi Hendrix posters, fine art and apparel with Leon Hendrix’s input. Leon is Jimi’s brother. To avoid any further legal issues with Janie Hendrix, owner of Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix in Seattle, Hendrix Licensing reformed as Rockin Artwork with the same goal in mind.

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Contact: Andrew Pitsicalis
Company:  Rockin Artwork, LLC.
Telephone: 1-866-954-5464
Fax: 1-866-954-5464
Email:  info@rockinartwork.com
Website:  http://www.rockinartwork.com
www.facebook.com/leonhendrixmusic1

Summary: Almost all of a $1.4 million dollar jury award verdict was set aside and attorney fees reduced in a trademark infringement lawsuit against Leon Hendrix’s business partner. The reduced verdict is yet another victory for Jimi Hendrix’s brother, Leon Hendrix, alongside the hard won rights to deal in Jimi Hendrix’s image, likeness and name which resulted in the Court striking down Washington’s publicity statute earlier this year.