The Case for a Will, Starring the Estate of Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix is considered by many the best guitarist that has ever lived, and although the legendary icon has been dead for over 40 years, his music, and unfortunately lawsuits, has kept his spirit alive. The Hendrix estate is one of the most-litigated in the history of entertainment litigation, which include copyrights and royalty rights. When he unexpectedly passed away at the age of 27 on September 18, 1970, he did not have a will. His father Al Hendrix inherited his $80 million dollar estate, becoming the protector of his legacy.
Jimi Hendrix’s family members had all separately set up a dozen beneficiaries of trusts and companies using their late family member’s likeness over the years, which was a source of constant strife.
Here is a chronological list of the most significant lawsuits pertaining to Jimi Hendrix’s estate:
1993: Al Hendrix sued his lawyer who was involved in shady dealings to win back his son’s image and music rights, that stating that he did not give his consent for such a transaction.
1995: Al Hendrix won court case against ex lawyer and advisor and formed Experience Hendrix LLC, the family-owned company that presides over all things Hendrix to this day.
2002: Al Hendrix died, leaving the full estate in his will to his daughter Janie. Her brother Leon sued to have their father’s will overturned and remove his sister Janie as the personal representative. He lost the suit.
2009: Janie Hendrix, controller of Experience Hendrix LLC, filed suit in the United States District Court against her brother Leon and his partner, alleging they were committing trademark infringement.
2014: Five years later, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Experience Hendrix LLC, leading to a settlement and one unknown settlement amount for the associated sale of merchandise (T-shirts, posters, etc.) that capitalized on Hendrix’s fame. In addition, the ruling also handed them the ability to crack down on any vendors selling unauthorized products bearing the Hendrix name or likeness.
2015: Now the estate of Jimi Hendrix is suing an Arizona guitar shop owner for the return of a guitar once owned by the rocker that was sold to him for $80,000 in 2014. The lawsuit claims the guitar was stolen by a sometime singer and guitarist for Earth, Wind & Fire, who is also a former member of The Commodores. The guitar is now allegedly worth near $1,000,000.
2016: Experience Hendrix sued for trademark infringement and dilution against Tiger Paw Beverage Company and Leon Hendrix who partnered in selling an alcoholic beverage named “Purple Haze Liqueur” inspired by the musician’s famous song. A Savannah court has now ruled that the Purple Haze Liqueur is “not similar” to any of the plaintiff’s registered trademarks and that there are no similarities in the way their products are sold, as the plaintiff uses online platforms and the defendant uses retail outlets. So the Hendrix estate doesn’t win them all.
The moral of the story, make a trust, make a will, make it solid and leave your family in peace.