Rob Zombie’s lawyers claim he owns the word zombie…

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 17 - 2009

zombiebang-bandUPDATED UPDATE: Eric Weiss contacted me and says he was contacted directly by Rob Zombie, who did not know his lawyers were going after Weiss, and has agreed to coexist with Zombie! (aka Weiss). I had a feeling he didn’t know what his legal team was up to, and kudos to him for being a man and a human being and doing the right thing. Rob Zombie, zombie lovers everywhere salute you!

UPDATE: Opinion from my lawyer friend added!

I’ve seen a copy of the letter referenced in today’s news post from Rob Zombie’s trademark lawyers and it’s alarming. They seem to be claiming he owns the right to the word zombie in any musical context, which is just utter bullshit. I can think of a half a dozen band names that use the word in addition to the band Zombie! who they are going after (who, it’s worth noting, is a small, unsigned independent guy who isn’t a great position to fight a legal war). And since zombies are probably the second most popular movie monster ever, it isn’t like he staked out some far-out undiscovered territory with the name Rob Zombie — I guess John Vampire would be slightly less original, but just slightly.

I’ve asked  a lawyer friend if there’s any legal merit to the case and I will update when I hear back from him. I will also be attempting to contact the law firm tomorrow for comment. If you know of any bands that use the word zombie in their name, please leave them in the comments. I’d like to point out to these lawyers how futile and misguided this attempt really is.

My lawyer friend, who first points out that, “trademark law is a branch of Intellectual Property law and is its own unique thing with its own bar exam, etc.  If you really want a completely accurate legal opinion about this you would need to consult a Patent Attorney in all likelihood,” goes on to offer the following:

Without constituting an actual legal opinion but merely being my best guess, you are correct that this is bullshit.  The name “Zombie!” is distinct enough from “Rob Zombie” – the trademarked term – that it is unlikely to be confused and, therefore, unlikely to infringe upon Rob Zombie’s rights or capitalize on the goodwill his name generates.  There are numerous examples (The Mission and The Mission U.K., The Charlatans and The Charlatans U.K., Verve Records and The Verve, Dinosaur and Dinosaur Jr., etc.) where substantially more minor variations have been sufficient to differentiate between two distinct musical entities.  If the mere mention of the word “zombie” in a band name were enough to constitute infringement than Rob Zombie better be prepared to disgorge all of his lifetime earnings to the sixties band The Zombies.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that Rob Zombie’s birth name is Zombie.  He, like any number of others, is capitalizing on a horror creature/genre to give his audience an impression of what he and his work are about before they ever hear a note he has played.  One cannot at this point trademark the idea of zombies.  This is why hundreds of people have made zombie movies without being sued to hell and back while nobody except George Lucas and those who have purchased the rights from George Lucas have made films about Wookies.  Wookies are exclusive to the Star Wars universe and are the intellectual property of George Lucas.  Zombies are an idea in the public domain and available to anyone to use.  It is the zombie genre that your friends, Rob Zombie and The Zombies have all capitalized on for their musical names – Rob Zombie didn’t come up with the idea and cannot lay claim to it.
He goes on to say that Zombie’s lawyers probably will be able to sue Weiss out of business — unless enough unfavorable publicity is shed on the whole affair to convince them to back off. That’s where you all come in — please spread this far and wide, for Weiss and anyone else that ever wants to use the word zombie in their band or musical project without fear of Rob Zombie’s army of undead lawyers.

After the break, you can find scanned images of the cease-and-desist notice sent to Eric Weiss of Zombie!

RZ1RZ2

29 Responses to “Rob Zombie’s lawyers claim he owns the word zombie…”

  1. only1rob says:

    Its crap like this that ruins it for everyone else.

  2. Zombie Girl, for starters (let’s see those suited idiots sue her).

  3. JeffersonLives says:

    One Google Search later…
    The Zombies: English rock band formed in 1961
    “Zombie Band from Hell”
    There are also two other bands both with the name “Zombie Zombie”

  4. chris skeene says:

    well, there’s The Zombies for starters. Then there’s The Zombie Band From Hell, Zombie Nation, Zombie Bazooka Patrol, Zombie Apocalypse, Zombies Ate My Band, and Zombie Dog. that’s what Google tells me anyway.

  5. John says:

    Well, there was… wait for it… The Zombies, who were using the name back in 1961, before Rob Zombie was even born. And they only recorded the #80 record on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest records of all time.

    No I don’t think there’s any merit to it at all. Can they just bury him with filings? Maybe.

  6. Stephan Lee says:

    ***The Zombies (date as far back as 1965..)***, Zombie-A-GoGo, Zombie Bazooka Patrol, Zombie Apocalypse, Zombie Nation, Zombie Dog, Zombies at my Band, The Zombie Band from Hell, Zombie Girl.

    And by the way they’re spinning this. Might as well make it illegal to have LYRICS about zombies. Quite honestly. This is ridiculous.

    Might as well attack the Zombie Daily for using the word too! http://www.zombiedaily.com/

  7. III says:

    This isn’t over Rob Zombie supposedly owning the rights to the word “Zombie.” The purpose of this, CLEARLY stated in the letter, might I add, is to prevent brand confusion. Rob Zombie has merch that simply says “Zombie” on it, and many people I know have referred to him only by his last name when talking about going to his shows or talking about his albums.
    This is a matter of the name of the act possibly presenting confusion, not the simple use of the word “Zombie.” What is the likelihood that Zombie Nation, Zombie Girl, Zombie Apocalypse, etc. are ever going to be confused for Rob Zombie? Highly, HIGHLY, unlikely. But I can see where they might see some confusion in this, and especially understand this after having taken a course in intellectual property law (i.e. the law that is over copyrights, trademarks, etc.).
    If a song were called “Zombie” or were about zombies, there would be no big deal. If an album were called “Zombie” or was pertaining to zombies, there would be no big deal. You all are making this seem like Rob Zombie or his lawyers are just being a tyrant over the word “Zombie” being used in any situation EVER, which they are not. They are just, in a civil manner, might I add, addressing an issue pertaining to something that could cause confusion with their bread and butter, i.e. the Rob Zombie band and merch.
    I can see where they would find something in this as far as name confusion goes. I don’t see why they can’t work it out before sending letters threatening legal action, but I can see where they’d find a case.

  8. Cory Casciato says:

    @III – You take a far more narrow view than seems implied — see specifically numbered point 1, which says he will cease using “any other band or mark using the word zombie.” also point 3, that he not own any trademark, domain name, etc that consists OR CONTAINS the word zombie. Seems pretty clear to me…

    The larger point is, zombie is a word that can not be owned. Not by Rob Zombie, not by anyone, not for any reason.

  9. III says:

    I didn’t see anything in that letter that claimed/implied that Rob Zombie owned the word “zombie.” If there were to be another word in the band’s name, this lawsuit would not even be an issue right now. The letter makes it clear that they want to prevent confusion with their act, not to lay claim to the word “zombie” itself.

  10. Cory Casciato says:

    @III How about the part I mentioned, where it specifically says he can’t use a name containing the word zombie? What is not clear here? It’s there in black and white… I respect your right to hold a different opinion and interpretation than I do, but I don;t see how you are arriving at that — can you explain why you interpret the insistence he not use any name/mark/domain name/etc CONTAINING the word zombie as a claim that he cannot use the word zombie? I just don’t see any other way to interpret that.

  11. III says:

    It doesn’t say he can’t use a name containing “zombie.” It says that the word “Zombie” is the only word in his name, which they believe could cause confusion with Rob Zombie’s act and merchandising.

  12. III says:

    Simple solution: Slight name change. Add another word.

  13. Cory Casciato says:

    @III Okay, please read more closely. It clearly does say that exact thing in numbered points 1 and 3, friend. “any other name or mark that includes zombie”

  14. III says:

    That is poor choice of language on the part of Rob Zombie’s lawyers, and departs from what was stated in the first page, wherein lies an argument for Eric Weiss.
    Keep in mind, I’m playing devil’s advocate here. I think in a lot of cases, these sorts of lawsuits just waste a lot of time, but I understand where they come from considering the class I took in Media Law.
    Personally, I think Rob Zombie would be better off suing his former guitarist for having a band that’s little more than a poor knock-off.

  15. Both guys are honestly wrong, and – even as an artist myself – I strongly dislike the way we handle copyrights and trademarks in modern society. This case shows how everyone becomes the “bad guy.” Rob Zombie is wrong here because he’s picking on the little guy and because he does appear to be trying to lay claim to a common creative term he didn’t invent or trademark before its use. HOWEVER, if you look at the letter, Mr. Weiss is trying to trademark the name “Zombie”, presumably so he has legal recourse to go after others who use the name. Why is he any better than Rob Zombie then? As fans as artists, we have to face that we are in a new kind of creative democracy, and no one person or entity owns something as beloved as the single word “zombie.” That is for all of us to love and share – without having to pay royalties for the privilege.

  16. Cory Casciato says:

    @ Aaron Mystery – Actually, from discussion with Eric, he wants to trademark Zombie! (exclamation point as an integral part of the name). This may or may not be right, depending on your point of view. If he were to succeed, and then attack another band for using the word zombie (say to call themselves Zombie Smell or even That’s So Zombie!), I’d be all over him for that in the same way. That is exactly my point – no one owns the word zombie, and no one can.

    For the record, let me state that I believe this is Rob Zombie’s LAWYERS, not him, behind this. I’d be shocked if he has any idea it’s going on. I will try to reach him for comment as well, but considering the multiple layers of PR between him and me, it seems unlikely.

  17. Eric Weiss says:

    Hello,

    Eric Weiss from ZOMBIE! here. Thank you for this blog post and the debate here. For the record, I would just like to state that I filed a tradmark to protect my logo and my right to use ZOMBIE! to avoid this kind of BS. It was filed out of defense, not offense. In my trademark, I claim no right to the word “zombie” at all. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to use “zombie” in a music project. I’m fine with that. All I want is the right for my logo & band name to coexist. There has never been a music project simply known as ZOMBIE! and I feel that I should be able to use it. I’ve played 1 show, sold a few shirts, and I give my music away for free. I firmly believe there is no confusion with Rob Zombie or White Zombie in regard to my project and there never will be.

    – Eric

  18. Eric, I totally side with you, I just want to make it clear that – using your logic – you need to be prepared for other bands of varying fame to simply be called “Zombie” then and NOT sue them. If you’re not prepared to accept that, then you have to change the name. Otherwise, you have to deal with brand confusion, and run into the risk of insisting the exclamation point is yours (at the risk of sounding like Dr. Evil’s dad).

    There is a reason why my band started with the terrible name “Brethren” and ended up with the worse name “Brethren and the Evil Empire”. We wanted to keep the Brethren part but simply needed to differentiate because of other groups with Brethren in their name. That’s just how it goes.

    So keep fighting the good fight, just remember that sometimes it’s important to take stock and wonder if you’re really doing what’s best for you, your brand, and your art.

  19. LIli says:

    So I’ve been thinking about this since I heard about it yesterday. I’ve a few ideas and here is one. I just looked up contact info for the band The Zombies. What if we all sent emails to these guys about what Eric is going through basically asking them to step forward and threaten Rob Zombie with a similiar suit. After all they WERE the first band with the name Zombie in it. Also, look up the term “chilling effect”. This is what the who’s who do in order to frighten everyone else. Also, does anyone know if Rob Zombie is sueing all other bands out there with the word Zombie in it? Anyway, here is the contact info.
    Don McKay,
    Rhino Management,
    60, Babbercombe Road,
    Bromley,
    Kent,
    BR1 3LW.

    Tel: 020 8460 4907

    Email: rhinoagency@btconnect.com

    For professional enquiries in the USA contact

    T.C.I.,
    105,SHAD ROW,
    2nd. FLOOR,
    PIERMONT,
    N.Y. 10968,
    U.S.A.

    TEL. 212 730 2701
    http://www.myspace.com/thezombies

  20. Sid Pink says:

    This has run a course, here! Now we’re hearing from one source – we await Rob Zombie [handler]’s reply!
    I hate all this crap; but now it makes me have my *own* fear [re: my own pet issue (how often these worlds cross!)] – Rob Zombie (can I type that?!?)’s latest film endeavor ‘Superbeasto’ is an animated (and delayed) romp thru the seedy underworld of… Lucha Libre! Oh no! will R. Zombie lay claim to 71 years of Mexican wrestling history as a potential infringement on his profit margins?!?
    Here’s a promise: unlicensed, copyright-flaunting Juarez luchador(es) WILL quickly appropriate ‘Super-Beasto’ mask and likeness in the smaller arenas outside of established [read: sue-able] leagues (AAA, CMLL, etc) if this film gains any popularity whatsoever [see: Nacho Libre; similarly appropriated]. Will Robert Becker be sending letters to Zacatecas general delivery in hopes of suing some unknown wrestler out of his $12 appearance fee?

  21. III says:

    Just so you guys know, this is from Eric Weiss’ Twitter today:

    ZombieRiotPLEASE RT! I spoke with Rob Zombie directly. “We are all good.” He was NOT aware of the lawyer BS. He is a GREAT guy. ZOMBIE! will coexist!

  22. lily says:

    Please, we all know Rob Zombie as just that…when I see the word Zombie anywhere else I do NOT think of him..He needs to get way over himself… He did not create the word zombie…

  23. III says:

    @lily He also didn’t initiate the suit, which you would have been aware of if you had read #21, which contains Eric Weiss’ message from Twitter in which he confirmed he had spoken with Rob Zombie, who was UNAWARE of the lawyer situation, directly and resolved the issue.

  24. […] story reported yesterday about Rob Zombie’s lawyers trying to shut down musician/artist Eric Weiss for using the name Zombie! has been happily resolved — Weiss contacted me to let me know Rob […]

  25. Kitty Kowalski says:

    But White Zombie stole it’s name from a 1932 horror film. Rob adopted the last name from that title or from his band name. No case.

  26. […] off. Eric Weiss, the man behind Zombie!, sent me a bunch of his stuff to thank me for helping him get the word out. I wear the hat a lot, since I frequently am in need of a haircut (I seem to miss a lot of my hair […]

  27. […] once in a while, I get to do something like real journalism here! Well, at least once, anyway, when Rob Zombie’s lawyers tried to sue Eric Weiss to stop him from using the name Zombie!, claiming Mr. Zombie owned the term. Ahem. It generated a bit of an uproar on the Internets, Rob […]

  28. […] Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse has a long history with Zombie!, an art/rock project by Eric Weiss. We helped him publicize his plight when Rob Zombie’s dick lawyers were after him to change his name (Rob Zombie personally intervened and called his over-enthusiastic lawyer army […]

  29. Jon says:

    heh… that is funny!

    Nice website you’re running btw. If you ever feel like watching a zombie movie you can check out my website which lists over 600zombie movies

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