Black Flag guitarist and co-founder Greg Ginn has launched a lawsuit against several former bandmates for allegedly infringing on the Black Flag trademark by playing in a similarly named tribute band, FLAG.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Ginn claims that he and his record label own the sole rights to the name and logo for the ground-breaking punk band, which he thinks members of FLAG are misusing. Former Black Flag members Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Henry Rollins, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton have all been named in the suit as infringing on the Black Flag trademark.
Currently, there are two incarnations of Black Flag on tour. Ginn is leading the officially reunited Black Flag alongside former vocalist Ron Reyes and several new musicians, while original Black Flag vocalist Morris has formed the tribute band FLAG with Cadena, Dukowski and Stevenson, performing cover versions of Black Flag songs. Rollins is not involved with FLAG, but was named in the suit because he and Morris attempted to trademark the Black Flag name and logo in early 2012.
In the suit, Ginn claims that FLAG is simply a “colorful imitation” of Black Flag that is “likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception among consumers.” Ginn also asserts that Morris and Rollins have orchestrated a “massive fraud” by illegally profiting off the Black Flag name, selling bootleg Black Flag and SST Records T-shirts to fans.
In Black Flag’s original 10-year run from 1976 to 1986, 17 musicians played with the band in various incarnations, the only constant being Greg Ginn on guitar.
This isn’t the first time that Ginn and SST Records have been the focus of lawsuits. For years, musicians in bands signed to SST Records – including big-name acts like Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and Husker Du – have publicly stated that they never received any royalties for albums or merchandise released through the label. Over the years, the Meat Puppets, Descendents, and Sonic Youth have all successfully sued Ginn and SST records over unpaid royalties.
Even Rollins, certainly the most famous and recognizable member of Black Flag, insists that he has never been paid royalties for his appearances on all six full-length Black Flag records, despite their decades of popularity.
“[Greg Ginn] doesn't pay royalties,” Rollins wrote in a 2011 column for LA Weekly. “No royalties, no statements, nothing. At least not to me and several of my old bandmates. I would love to see an accounting and even an estimate of what I'm owed over a period of almost three decades.”