NEW YORK Verizon Wireless will drop all Bob Marley ringtones, ringbacks and pictures after being threatened with a trademark infringement lawsuit, representatives for the late reggae star's family said on Thursday.
The decision comes in response to a statement last month by the Marley family that it would sue Verizon Wireless and Universal Music Group for using the iconic star's name, likeness and image without permission.
Fifty Six Hope Road Music, the Marley family company, said in a statement that Verizon Wireless has now taken down all endorsement and trademark materials in connection with Marley, including ringtones and ringbacks.
A spokesperson for Verizon Wireless, which is jointly owned by Verizon Communications (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group (VOD.L), was not immediately available to comment.
The dispute appeared to center on interpreting Verizon's use of Marley's image either as promotional or as a paid endorsement.
"We are disappointed that the management of the Marley Estate has chosen to take such an extreme and meritless position that a customary promotional campaign highlighting the availability of Marley mastertones somehow constitutes an 'endorsement' of Verizon overall," Universal said in statement.
Universal Music Group, parent of Island Records, the label that put out Marley hits like "One Love" and "I Shot The Sheriff," added, "We will now make Bob Marley's music available as mastertones to all phone carriers."
It was not clear whether Fifty Six Hope Road Music would still file suit against Universal Music Group, which is owned by French media giant Vivendi (VIV.PA). A company spokeswoman would not comment on the possibility.
Chris Blackwell, speaking as a representative of the Bob Marley estate, sharply criticized Universal Music and Verizon Wireless, saying they "refuse to give the musicians the respect they deserve."
Blackwell, best known as the founder of Island Records, added: "I am infuriated that Verizon would go around the estate and initiate partnership with Universal Music Group."
(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke)