Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yoko vs. Lennon

Nobody told her there'd be days like these.
Lennon Murphy—a little-known singer-songwriter who was named after John Lennon—has found herself at odds with Yoko Ono over who has legal rights to the famous moniker.
An attorney for Lennon's widow filed a petition last week with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office seeking to cancel a trademark Murphy took out in 2003 for "Lennon" as the name of her band.
The petition cites the "likelihood of confusion" in the marketplace and "dilution" of the music icon's surname. (Lennon itself is a fairly common throughout Ireland and is derived from the Gaelic word Leannon, which means a "lover" or "sweetheart.")
The 25-year-old Murphy claims that, as a courtesy, she sought and received Ono's blessing to use the name back in 2000, when she signed with Arista Records.

According to Murphy, the label was concerned about the name issue and sent her product manager, Justin Shukat (reportedly the son of Ono attorney Peter Shukat), to approach the prickly 74-year-old artist. Ono supposedly gave her okay, clearing the way for the Tennessee-born Murphy and her eponymous band to release 5:30 Saturday Morning.
Arista dropped Murphy and her mates from the label after that debut album failed to generate big sales. However, Lennon the band continues to perform concerts and release music independently.
According to Muphy, Ono's change of heart came two days before the statute of limitations was due to run out. In her complaint with the Trial and Appeal Board, Ono claims Lennon the band "fraudulently" registered its trademark.
Another attorney for Ono, Dorothy M. Weber, tells E! Online, "We don't comment on anything currently pending, whether in court or otherwise."
In an anguished post on her MySpace blog, Murphy decries the filing and says that her career could be in jeopardy, even though she believes she's in the right.

"I'm not sure what confusion I could be causing, since I don't have the $50,000 to hire a lawyer and fight this. If people were confusing me with John Lennon and accidently [sic] buying my records, I should have more than enough money to live my life and hire a lawyer? I wish that was the case," she writes.
"I haven't worked since October 2007, so I live on just enough to get through the months until I get back on the road. I have no idea what I'm going to do yet in this situation, and I'm stressed, angry and scared."

The performer went on to defend her name: "I never falsified my intentions, I never used John Lennon for my benefit, and I never took one cent out of Yoko's bank account. I play music, my name is Lennon, and the most heartbreaking thing out of this whole situation is the insult it gives to my late mother and who she believed in; on top of demeaning the man that John Lennon was and will always be."
Although Ono has picked a fight with Murphy, the young singer has gained support from a potentially key ally.
Julian Lennon, John's son from his marriage to first wife Cynthia Lennon, himself a singer-songwriter who has had his own run-ins with his stepmom, posted Murphy's message on his MySpace blog and expressed sympathy for her situation.
"This is NOT about me but about a girl named 'Lennon,' " writes the 44-year-old Julian. "She has my full support."
Come on, Yoko, give peace a chance.


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