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An estate and licensees in a legal jam

At the start of his music career, Bob Marley recorded, "One Cup of Coffee,” a song on his debut “Judge Not” album. Released under the pseudonym of Bobby Martell, the tune was described as a “strange saga of separation and financial settlement.” The lyrics included a particular line that became somewhat of a harbinger of things to come for the estate he left behind.

“I brought the money like the lawyer said to do.”

Jammin Java Corp., was a business that had a license from two companies controlled by the Marley family. Fifty-Six Hope Road Music LTD and Hope Road Merchandising LLC made and sold a coffee product that used the late musician’s name and trademark.

While Rhohan Marley, the son of the late Jamaican music legend, was initially involved, the relationship soured following a dispute over unpaid royalties. In addition, the Marley estate alleged that Jammin Java unlawfully sublicensed the brand to third parties and continued to sell the coffee following the expiration of their license in July 2016.

Jammin Java did admit to trademark infringement. However, the coffee company argued that it generated zero profits once the licenses expired, yet had no proof of that claim. The two companies claimed that the significant costs of developing a new competing brand during the latter half of last year accounted for a lack of profitability.

The Marley companies won their legal claim via a summary judgment. In April of this year, they demanded damages equal to the amount Fifty-Six Hope Road Music LTD and Hope Road Merchandising LLC allegedly earned while selling Marley Coffee for five months following the expiration of their license.

The Bob Marley estate was awarded $2.4 million. However, this time, it was a judge, not a lawyer, that “said to do.”


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