Court rules for Keith Morris’ Flag in Black Flag lawsuit

Keith Morris of Flag and FYF Fest's Sean Carlson. A judge has ruled in favor of Morris' new outfit Flag, in a trademark infringement lawsuit brought by Morris' former Black Flag bandmate Greg Ginn.
(Jeremy and Claire Weiss / For the Times)

Black Flag’s Greg Ginn might want to crack open a six-pack tonight: A U.S. District Court judge has ruled against him in his trademark infringement lawsuit against many of his former bandmates in the canonical South Bay hard-core group.

On Tuesday, Judge Dean Pregerson of California’s Central District Court denied Ginn a preliminary injuction against many of his former Black Flag members touring as Flag, including Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson, Descendents’ guitarist Stephen Egerton and Henry Rollins. All of the latter except Rollins are touring in the Black Flag spinoff, which recently performed at this summer’s FYF Fest. Ginn, the band’s founding guitarist and core member, had also been touring with a new lineup under the name Black Flag.

Ginn had claimed that he and his label SST Records had sole rights to use the Black Flag image -- including the band name and its iconic four-bar logo - and that Flag’s touring was causing confusion among fans and damage to his brand.

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Judge Pregerson disagreed, however, claiming that the logo had slipped into “generic use” as the label hadn’t made efforts to halt a wide variety of bootleg merchandise available for years. He also was skeptical that the competing Flag tour was causing any confusion, as the Flag tour posters clearly stated the members in the Rollins-less lineup, and Ginn didn’t provide much specific evidence of fans being misled.

The ruling admitted that Ginn may at one point marshal enough evidence to make a convincing case in the matter, but hadn’t done so here.

In a separate and equally interesting background part of the ruling, Judge Pregerson ruled that neither Greg Ginn nor former singer Henry Rollins can provide evidence proving that Rollins ever quit the band, so he’s technically still a member of the original Black Flag, and the band’s assets are collectively owned by an entity, Black Flag Partnership, that includes Rollins and Ginn.

The ruling frees both Flag and Black Flag to tour at will. They’re each playing many of the same songs from the band’s glory-days catalog, and Ginn has promised a new Black Flag record to come.


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