For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Who owns the Black Sabbath trade mark?

Thank you, veteran IPKat friend Simon Haslam (Abel & Imray), for sending in this link to news that 60 year old Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne (right) is suing the band's guitarist Tony Iommi over royalty payments. Osborne alleges that Iommi has falsely claimed entitlement to the sole rights to the band's name, thus losing him royalties from merchandise sales. An unspecified sum is sought by way of damages and lost profits, as well as a declaration is a half-owner of the trade mark.  Iommi, who registered the Black Sabbath trade mark in the US in 2000, denies liability and says Osbourne legally relinquished rights to the band's name in the 1980s.


Osbourne is reported as saying he believed all four original members of the band should share Black Sabbath's name equally. His lawyer adds that even if he did agree to relinquish his rights, he took a major role in the band's direction and success after rejoining it in 1997.

The IPKat promises to keep an eye on this action, the latest an a long line of disputes between elderly band members who have metamorphosed from rock icons into cuutural antiquities. Merpel says she would hate to have the responsibility for sifting through the memories of the group's various members in the hope of assembling a coherent body of evidence as to what they said and did some time last century.

Black Sabbath Community trade mark here (registered for, among other things, waste backets, planters, vases, candlesticks ...)

1 comment:

J said...

I had heard about this a few days ago. I reckon there are two separate issues:

1. Ozzy Osbourne was kicked out of Black Sabbath in 1979 for drug and alcohol abuse and Tony Iommi continued without him, along with the other two original members, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. They were joined by Ronnie James Dio on vocals. Ward subsequently left after one album with Dio. Dio himself left after a further two albums (one of which was live) and Bill Ward rejoined for one album with ex-Deep Purple singer, Ian Gillan. Then they all left and Tony Iommi continued Black Sabbath by himself with a number of hired gun musicians and, most notably, Tony Martin on vocals. Tony Martin recorded about five Black Sabbath studio albums between 1987 and 1995 (Dio also recorded a one-off album during this period in 1992).
To my view Tony Iommi was, by attrition and tacit consent, the driving force of Black Sabbath and is primarily entitled to the name as he has been the only original member present on every record. He also invented heavy metal and deserves some credit for this because heavy metal is inherently linked to Black Sabbath.

Apparently (according to various interviews) Geezer wrote the lion's share of lyrics for Black Sabbath and also contributed riffs, but most came from Tony.
Ozzy Osbourne may have had considerable impact as a muse for the whole band (this seems to be Bill Ward's view) but his actual musical contribution is clouded.
The same situation later occured in his solo career where he was always surrounded by talented musicians (incredible young guitarists technically far more advanced than Iommi) that would drive the machine forward. While Sharon Osbourne possesses some reprehensible qualities (the conflict with Iron Maiden during Ozzfest a few years ago is inexcusable), she is undoubtedly an excellent manager. The lawsuit will undoubtedly be driven by Sharon Osbourne, not Ozzy.

2. Outstanding royalties for past albums upon which Ozzy appeared and all associated merchandise is a fair accusation to make, on the assumption it is true. However, one could argue that the continued interest in Black Sabbath and its success is most attributable to Tony Iommi.

Interestingly, the new "Black Sabbath" album in 2009 was released under the alternative band name "Heaven & Hell" with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Geezer Butler on bass and Vinny Appice on drums (who first replaced Bill Ward in 1980), presumably because Tony foresaw a conflict with Sharon Osbourne. The secondary reason for renaming the band was so it could perform songs only from the Dio-era Black Sabbath band, which released its first album in 1980 entitled "Heaven & Hell". There would then be no expectation from the concert going public to hear early Black Sabbath material. I see this as a very admirable approach, because they went out of their way not to mislead people into thinking they would hear 70s era Sabbath songs.

As an aside, the recent Dio collaboration would never have occurred if Ozzy were fit to perform with the original Black Sabbath line-up (Bill Ward has always been a staunch supporter of Ozzy and elected not to be involved with the project, but would probably have performed with an original line-up). Therefore, Ozzy's waning health has done a great deal of damage to the Black Sabbath band in recent times with a number of cancelled appearances (or performing with a guest vocalist).
My respect for Tony Iommi will remain undiminished. He should be entitled to continue the Black Sabbath name with whoever he so chooses as he has done, alone, since Butler and Ward left in 1983.

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