(Reuters) - A federal judge rejected a northern California brewery’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit by the son of late jazz great Thelonious Monk, who claimed it exploited his father’s name and image without permission to sell beer-themed merchandise.
U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam on Wednesday found it “more than plausible” that Thelonious Monk Jr had a right to control the commercial value of his father’s persona, and prevent North Coast Brewing Co and others from unfairly exploiting it for commercial purposes.
Without ruling on the merits, the Oakland, California-based judge also said people might be confused into thinking Monk, who oversees his father’s estate, had authorized North Coast to sell cups, hoodies, mouse pads, soap and other items that might appear associated with the musician.
“While we are disappointed that the court did not dismiss the Monk estate’s claims out of hand, we are eager to proceed to litigation to reveal the facts underlying these meritless claims,” North Coast said in a statement on Thursday.
Joel Rothman, a lawyer for Monk, said the estate was pleased with the decision.
Monk’s son said he had for several years verbally allowed North Coast to sell Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale in exchange for donating some profits to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
He said he revoked permission in January 2016 after learning that the Fort Bragg-based brewery was selling at least 17 other items referencing his father.
The lawsuit seeks damages for trademark infringement, unjust enrichment, and violating Monk’s right of publicity, and an injunction against any infringements.
Brother Thelonious is a dark mahogany ale with 9.4 percent alcohol by volume, and whose label features its namesake holding a glass of beer, with piano keys behind his head.
Thelonious Monk helped develop the style of bebop. He died in 1982 at age 64.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Susan Thomas