05 November 2013

John Steel, the former drummer of the 1960s band “The Animals”, has been refused the right to register the band name as a UK trade mark.

The band first formed in 1963, broke up in 1966 and regrouped on a number of occasions between 1968–1983 for charity events, touring and some albums. Since the split of the band John Steel had set up two new bands, Animals II and Animals and Friends. In addition Eric Burdon (the former lead singer) also continued his musical career under the band name Eric Burdon and The Animals.

In 2004 John Steel applied for the UK trade mark “The Animals” in class 9 (CDs and musical recordings) and in class 41 (musical live performances). The application was opposed by Eric Burdon.

In the original decision, the hearing officer ruled that John Steel was permitted to register the trade mark, despite opposition from Eric Burdon. Within these proceedings John Steel claimed to be the exclusive right owner of this IP and, therefore, was able to enjoy the goodwill and reputation of the band name. The decision was appealed.

On appeal the appointed person ruled that, although John Steel was one of the original band members, this did not entitle him to claim the entire goodwill and reputation of the “The Animals” brand. As such, relevant authorization and consent is required from the remaining right holders in order for John Steel to register the trade mark. The original decision was therefore overturned and the opposition was upheld.

This decision demonstrates the importance of putting agreements in place at the outset to avoid any unnecessary ownership disputes, where multiple authors/owners are involved.

The author Matthew Hiscox is part of Burges Salmon’s Trade Mark & Design team led by Jeremy Dickerson. Burges Salmon’s Intellectual Property team includes IP specialist dispute lawyers, non-contentious lawyers and Trade Mark attorney Chris Morris.

Did you know: As of 1 November 2013, copyright protection for sound recordings in the UK has been extended from 50 years to 70 years, which means that recordings released in 1960s will now be protected for an extended period. 

Key contact

Jeremy Dickerson

Jeremy Dickerson Partner

  • Head of International 
  • Head of Intellectual Property, Media and Sport
  • Defamation and Reputation Management

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