Saunders v. Jerry Garcia Estate, LLC

First Amended Complaint


The latest suit against assets once controlled by Jerry Garcia involves the trust holding the publicity rights of musician Merl Saunders vs Jerry Garcia Estate, LLC.

Merl Saunders performed hundreds of times with Garcia primarily as the "Merl & Jerry Band." The complaint alleges there was a partnership between Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia regarding equal name billing and a 50/50 split of profits and losses as to performances and recordings made as Merl & Jerry. There were numerous master recordings/sound recordings of the "Merl & Jerry Band" and the complaint alleges those were owned jointly.

In December 2004 a CD set entitled "Pure Jerry: Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders Band, Keystone Berkley, September 1, 1974 was commercially released. Released June 28, 2005, was a CD set entitled “The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 1: Legion of Mary” (“LOM Vol. 1”) which contains Jerry and Merl sound recordings.

Saunder's trust claims the releases was never authorized, there has been no accounting for Saunder's ownership in the sound recording copyrights or for the use of Saunder's name and likeness in promoting the releases.

The Saunders Trust may be too late on bringing some of their claims. The statute of limitations for violation of the California right of publicity statute is four years. For the release in December 2004, the trust may have missed their time to file by only a few days. The complaint alleges they plaintiffs were not aware of the release until some time after the actual release date.

The Lanham Act does not set out a specific statute of limitations for a False Endorsement/Unfair Competition claims, but relies upon a theory of laches to determine the applicable statute and such laches time frame is usually taken from the analogous state law. There is a four year statute of limitations for state law unfair competition claims in California, a

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