Yoko sues seeks to block trademark of "Lennon" - **UPDATE**

UPDATE: Yoko Ono responds to Boing Boing and says she's not suing Lennon Murphy, just seeking to block Murphy's attempt to file an exclusive trademark claim on "Lennon."


Yoko Ono, widow of former Beatles member John Lennon, is reported to be seeking legal action against singer-songwriter (and Suicide Girl) Lennon Murphy for alleged "tarnishment" of John Lennon's name.

Ms. Murphy's band is called Lennon, and she is attempting to register that band name as a trademark.

Here's a PDF of the papers, here's a snip from Lennon Murphy's response on her MySpace page.

Getting Sued by Yoko
Current mood: angry
Category: Music

Yesterday I received notice that Yoko Ono had filed a law suit against me, asking for a cancellation of the trademark that I own for the name "Lennon." This could very well mean the career that I have worked so hard at, the one you all have believed in, may come to an end. I wanted to address the situation to all my fans because without you I am nothing and it's not fair to everyone who has believed in my music not to be properly informed of this pure bullshit.

When I first started playing music at 14, I was known for the most part as "The Lennon Murphy Band". Not a name I was very fond of, no one could ever agree on anything so it made sense. A few months later some of the shows started being marketed using my full name as well as some that just using "Lennon." There was never really any consistancy but there was well enough to justify stating that "Lennon" had been used in fact since 1997. When I signed with Arista Records in 2000 at the age of 18, a marketing decision was made to continue being known just as Lennon. In all honesty, I didn't care. I was just happy to sign a record deal, make an album, and pay my bills.

Lennon is my first name by birth and I am regualarly asked if I was named after the Beatle, having always replied no. My mother named me after "John Lennon that wrote songs, painted, and baked bread with his son". She named me for the man, not the pop star.

Coverage links: TMZ, Fox, NME.

Julian Lennon, who is the son of John Lennon (and the former Beatle's first wife, Cynthia) also responded to the situation on his MySpace page. He's totally cool with the singer using her name, which also happens to be his father’s name, and says "She has My full support."


  1. On one hand, her name is Lennon. If it’s her real name and not a stage name.

    On the other hand, if you hear the word Lennon you’re definately gonna think of John first.

    Wonder who’ll win?

  2. All the talk about “she just wants to use her name” seems a little silly since she’s chosen only the part that she (and her management) would know for sure evokes John. She could have also used “Murphy” or “Lennon Murphy” to avoid confusion (like Elvis Costello). The fact she’s been using it for a while doesn’t seem too important either. It makes sense that no one would care until she became kinda big.

    I’ve never heard of her but if I had seen the name before the story, I would have assumed it was a Beatles tribute band or somehow otherwise related.

    Her statement that her career may now come to an end is pretty over the top. If her music is really any good, her fans will continue to follow her regardless of her name.

    I’m not sure about the legal issues involved but I’m pretty sure that if my name was Icky Presley I’d not get talked into marketing myself as Presley.

  3. She has the right to do business under her own name. As I understand it, that’s an old principle.

    On the other hand, whether she has the right to trademark “Lennon” is another matter. That seems more iffy, since she’s hardly the first musician to have that name.

  4. As yet another person named after John Lennon, I have to say that I side for the most part with Ms. Murphy. If Yoko were filing suit because she thought the band were going to actually confuse music listeners into buying the wrong product, she might have a point; as it is, she’s accusing the young woman of “tarnishing” John’s name, which is prudish, closed-minded, and certainly tenuous grounds for a trademark-infringement claim.

  5. A name’s a name, not a copyrightable concept. I know that’s not legally true, but it seems like it is morally.

    And I actually tend to dig Ono, but this move seems unfortunate. I wonder why she’s doing it? I mean, Lennon’s name is pretty much what it is, for good or ill. Will she start suing people that cover “Imagine” in a way she finds disrespectful?

  6. I don’t have problems with her existing, playing or promoting under the “Lennon” name.

    It raises my hackles that she wants to register that name as a trademark. ESPECIALLY since she’s adopting the “poor me attacked by awful, AWEful lawyers. Haters. HATERZZZ!”

    So yeah, thumbs down on this. At least this legal part of her complaint.

  7. Leafdot: trademark and copyright are different things.

    Also, even if Yoko succeeds in breaking the trademark, that doesn’t mean that Lennon, the band, has to stop calling itself Lennon. Most of us have not trademarked our names.

  8. Ehh, I don’t see how Ono could win this one. Unless of course, she’s also going to sue all the companies, persons, and cities that are also named Lennon. :|

  9. RCoder – “tarnish” in a sense of diluting or confusing people, in a legal sense, not in a derogatory way.

  10. I agree with everyone who says that calling her band “Lennon” is fine, but registering it as a trademark is pretty damn iffy. Especially since it’s a trademark for a musical business, and John Lennon is already *kinda well-known* for his music.

    And any sympathy I might have had for Lennon Murphy pretty much evaporated when she pulled the “oh woe, with no trademark my career will be destroyed” line.

  11. Ehh, I don’t see how Ono could win this one. Unless of course, she’s also going to sue all the companies, persons, and cities that are also named Lennon.

    Not everyone who is named Lennon is trying to get rich off the name.

    Yoko doesn’t want her to change her name. She just want to undo a marketing decision that tries to profit off John’s name.

  12. Poor Lennon….how my heart bleeds for her….Christ, how stupid do you think we are. Of course she is crassly using John Lennon’s name: “a marketing decision was made to continue being known just as Lennon. In all honesty, I didn’t care.” As if anyone would believe that! Let me hide behind the big bad record company. I believe in DRM free music honest.

    You may be a great singer/songwriter, good for you. But don’t give us a sob story how your career will come to an end because Yoko is suing you. You couldn’t ask for better publicity….an attractive singer sued by crazy old Yoko….pull the other one it has bells on!

    People forget about how much Yoko meant to John, and how important John is to music. Change your name to Heather Mills Leg and reap the benefits.

  13. Ok , here’s what you do….

    1:find a symbol you like a lot
    2:legally change your name to that symbol
    3:call yourself ” the artist formerly known as Lennon”.
    3: wait till Yoko dies
    4: change your name back.

  14. As great a band name as Heather Mills Leg is, if it were my band (but not my name), I’d change it to Lenin, but maybe I have a soft spot for publicly embalmed government leaders.

  15. Hey, can we stop with the “making her change her name” FUD? Nobody is trying to make her change her name. Yoko is trying to stop her from holding the trademark “Lennon”, which would give her an exclusive right to market music under the name “Lennon”. The way it stands right now, if an album of John Lennon’s music was put out under the name “Lennon”, then Lennon Murphy could sue for trademark infringement.

    And you wonder why Yoko has a problem?

  16. Why would not calling her band Lennon end her career? Just change it and move on.

    Also, are all her fans music fans or fans of naked tattooed chicks?

  17. I think it’s a little sad that Yoko seemingly has nothing more exiting to do than pursue legal actions like this. She made her name as an artist/musician/performance artist, she was a part of the “counter-culture” and an agitator and rebel. Now it seems like the only time you hear anything about her is when she’s suing or arguing with someone about the John Lennon brand name. Doesn’t she have anything better to do?

  18. Three separate thoughts on this:

    1. While checking out at daily grocer yesterday, a song ends, and I share small talk with the clerk, “Gawd, I can’t believe it took me all this time to recall this singer’s name. I am tired.” He responds, “Who is it?” The song was Imagine by John Lennon. Now, if a young man in a (granted, a metal) band doesn’t recognize Lennon, then Yoko “bitch needs to die” Ono needs all the pub for John she can get.

    2. Yeah, Lennon Murphy is over the top with the “my career might end” seeing as this is the first I’ve cared to give her name a second thought. If I’ve heard her, I hit ffwd» and never looked back. IOW, I’m the reason for the t-shirt that says “I stopped listening to bands that don’t even exist yet.”

    3. I better remove the Lenin-Lennon tattoo from my penis. What happens if I let down a woman in bed — does she enjoin Ono’s suit upon me for tarnishing a good name?

  19. Wow, what would her husband say? Right or not, it’s definitely bad karma that she now has plenty of. I for one would love to see Yoko lose on principle.

  20. “Why would not calling her band Lennon end her career? Just change it and move on.”

    She doesn’t have to change it, even. Just drop the trademark.

  21. Wasn’t this in Grapefruit? Wait, let’s check… yeah, here it is:
    “Screw with Someone Piece: Sue someone for no good reason. Sue them for having a name you don’t like or the color of their hair.”

  22. I subtract one internets from every noob who doesn’t understand what a trademark is and why Yoko is awesome for standing up to Murphy’s shady attempt to trademark a name, especially the name of one of the greatest artists of all time.

    It’s laughable that her post goes from Yoko “asking for a cancellation of the trademark” Into “I don’t want to lose my name all because someone is bored in their life of luxury.” I have to wonder if Murphy doesn’t understand that dropping the trademark doesn’t mean she can’t keep using the name Lennon, or if she’s just an ultra emo attention whore… I guess either ways it’s massive lulz.

  23. I couldn’t find anything about “tarnishment” in those court papers. Yoko seems to be claiming she has a prior trademark on the phrase “John Lennon” for use in selling sunglasses and hand bags; and that this invalidates Lennon Murphy’s more recent trademark on the word “Lennon” for use in music and music videos. There’s also no mention of requiring Lennon Murphy to change the name of her band. It’s just contesting her attempt to trademark “Lennon” which would mean she Lennon Murphy would have the sole right to use the word “Lennon” in the sale of music.

    So according to that PDF, what Yoko wants is quite reasonable, but legally doomed since trademarks are by field of business and Yoko’s trademark is in eyewear and accessories.

  24. Why would she WANT to keep her name is what I’m wondering. If anyone does a google search for “Lennon”, chances are that the first 10 million hits will not be her myspace page.

  25. I with everyone who says that registering a trademark on “Lennon” (and then saying that your career is over if you can’t hold that trademark) is dumb as a sack of hammers.

    The world of recorded music has been happily disambiguating people with similar names for its entire lifespan. Whomever told this woman that she needed to get a registered trademark on her name in order to have a career was a moron.

  26. What’s more important, her music or the name?. If I didn’t know about this and heard about a musician called Lennon I would think of John Lennon first. If she wants to trademark Lennon, then, she would be fighting a collective imaginary concept, since the name Lennon is associated with John Lennon. If it took her a long time to build her career, then was it based on the name or on the artistic merit?.

    This person has to be true to herself, and really answer: is it the name or the talent that matters?

  27. SEYO #4 said:

    “Sean just wants some of that Suicide Girl ass.”

    That was Julian who was totally cool about this, but Sean probably is, too…

  28. Clifford: Her myspace is actually at the top of the second page of google results.

    There is also a news post about her on the first page.

  29. Do bands trademark their names? That’s the issue here. In the UK we have the act of ‘passing off’, which basically involves the use of a similar name in a similar business, under which criteria (and it would be one for the courts) young Ms Murphy probably wouldn’t get her way, and is rather silly to assume that she would against an icon of modern music. For that matter, if she became more popular, her name would almost always be linked with John. It’s like calling your band the Beetles, or as was the case in early 80s New Zealand, the Stones, which is a great name for a band but unusable because of a certain bunch of permatouring geriatrics. If I were her I’d walk away and think of a good name on the offchance that she actually gets successful.

  30. hmm just call yourself something different jeez…

    it’s like a band being called Dylan, Springsteen or Hendrix… its pretty blatant, just find another name!

    although yeah… i was in a band with a guy who had been another band that had recorded an album called ABBEY ROAD. hah… he called it that because the album was mastered on the very same board as the Beatles abbey road and he was being ironic… it was funny.

  31. What I find interesting is that although she has Julian Lennon’s “My full support”, he’s one of the persons who would likely be hurt by this trademark. He’s a musician himself, under his own name. (I don’t think Yoko Ono ever had a problem with that) If he were to make a new album, he could be sued for using a TM not registered in his name (pun intended.)

  32. Seriously. “Lennon”, as a band or otherwise named “product”, draws people in due to the name. If I had never heard of the “band” before, I would probably have shown up to an advertised gig hoping to hear a cover band. In the States, at least, the name is unique enough that one makes the connection if one knows the Beatles. Why, then, would she need to “protect” the name? It does all the work for her by belonging to someone else. Besides, I think Lennon Murphy sounds a lot less douchey than just “Lennon”.

    The fact that Julian is supporting someone against Yoko should be completely exempt from any part of the argument (aside from the fact that Lennon Murphy is, y’know, wrong). Julian’s been royally dicked over by Yoko since day one, so he kinda has it out for her.

    Most importantly, I encourage everyone to forget about these appeals to emotion generally. Yes, Yoko leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths (mine included), but that doesn’t make her wrong if the law says she’s right. Disagree all you wish with the laws, but they came into being for a reason.

  33. I really find it hard to accept that so many people here think it’s perfectly fine for Murphy to own the trademark “Lennon” with regards to music.

    As for poor old Mike Rowe – “I never even thought of getting anything out of them,” he said, adding that he only asked for the $10,000 because he was “sort of mad at them for only offering 10 bucks.” – man, he fell for one of the oldest slimy lawyer tricks in the book. Never ask them for more money; just decline their deliberately insulting offer.

  34. “I wanted to address the situation to all my fans because without you I am nothing”

    Hey, Murphy, self esteem issues much?

  35. I wonder what Ms. Murphy’s middle name is and why she’s not interested in using that as her band name. Or even her last name. Or her initials. Could it be because she knows she’ll benefit from the name recognition of a dead celebrity?

    I also wonder what said dead celebrity himself would have to say about this. IANJL, but I suspect the man who once proclaimed his band as bigger than Jesus would tell everyone to ignore this manipulative little attention grabbing marketing ploy and realize everyone will forget who she is in a few years or less.

    Yoko, for all her faults, appears content to let Ms. Murphy release music under whatever name she wants, as long as it doesn’t threaten Yoko’s ability to release her husband’s music under his actual name (for whom Ms. Murphy was named in tribute to) as well. It’s hard for me to see any fault in that.

  36. My favorite part of this emo drama is “I am regualarly asked if I was named after the Beatle, having always replied no. My mother named me after “John Lennon that wrote songs, painted, and baked bread with his son”. She named me for the man, not the pop star.”

    What a load of tosh. Your momma didn’t know the man. She knew OF the pop star. What is it about Beatles fans, more than fans of any other pop group, that makes them think they’ve got this intense personal relationship with the figures on their album jackets?

  37. I don’t care if she calls her band “John Lennon’s Mummified Corpse” Yoko Ono is being a righteous bitch here. I like to think that John would be more of a copyleftist if his zombified remains could slither out of their grave to feed on the flesh of the living today.

  38. This reminds me of when Beck (Hansen) came out and all the old dudes I knew where pissed that he stole Jeff Beck’s name.

    That said, this girl should just be called by her full name and stop this ridiculousness.

    And for everyone harping about her right to use her own name, she’s totally allowed to be Lennon Murphy. She could probably open a flower shop and trademark it Lennon Florist. She just may not be able to trademark the name to sell music. My name is Burton, I can’t trademark that to sell clothing and snowboards just because it’s my name. That’s the law.

    And Everybody needs to get off Yoko’s back. She’s 74-years-old and John’s been dead since ’81. The Beatles broke up almost 40 years ago. Get over it already.

  39. Yoko Ono giving a crap will help her in the long run.
    I say run with it, soak it up, use it, cash in and move on, because a 70-something Yoko is going to hold our attention for about as long as hey Family Guys is on…

  40. Oh my, how hurt and tormented poor Lennon looks. Or is it: angry? I have never heard her music and I know for sure I never will, especially after reading that pretentious crap.

    “A marketing decision was made. In all honesty, I didn’t care.”
    You sure as hell care now.
    “I was just happy to pay my bills”

    Laughable, man! HA!

  41. …I have the perfect compromise: Lennon stops using her name, Yoko never sings or opens her mouth again. Fair trade.

  42. OK Ms Ono in that case we better ban: Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Shakespeare’s Sister, Rolling Stones, Ocean Size and the thousands of other bands who honour their heroes.
    Get over it woman! It’s an honour for your man to be remembered like this.

  43. wow, 57 comments in and Slatts and Butterhead still don’t get it. It is not about banning names or changing names, its about someone trying to get a trademark for a well recognised name in a specific domain, ‘Lennon’, in music. Glad we have them around to knock down those big, mean and scary straw men for us, though.

  44. So if Murphy applied for the trademark in 2000, and was granted it in 2003, I wonder if there was something specific that triggered the Yoko lawsuit in 2008?

    I’d say that Murphy has a lot more worries with her music career than just Yoko’s lawsuit, though — she may have signed an overhyped major-label deal with Arista in 2000, but it only seems to have lasted for one album. Her last two full-length discs (and most recent release, a disc of remixes) have been released in the US on a record label called “John Galt Entertainment,” a company with no web presence and only about 10 non-Lennon releases. And despite the fact that Evanescence made truckloads of money with a fairly similar schtick over the last 8 years, I’d wager that most of us had never heard of Ms. Murphy until this story hit the wires. Hmmm … maybe she’s the one who brought the Trademark to Yoko’s attention . . .

  45. I realize that this is an unfortunate situation for Lennon (although I’m sure the press has been great!), but one particular reply to her blog by “Maliqua” cracked me up.

    “White people make me fucking sick, I am going to vomit blood!”

    How relevant.

  46. Dear Friends

    A musician named Lennon Murphy is claiming that Yoko Ono has sued her and that Yoko is seeking to stop Lennon Murphy from performing under her name, Lennon Murphy. Both of these claims are untrue.

    Several years ago, Lennon Murphy sought Yoko’s permission to do her performances under her name, Lennon Murphy. Yoko, of course, did not object to her request. Subsequently, without Yoko’s knowledge, Lennon Murphy filed an application in the United States trademark Office requesting the exclusive right to utilize the name “Lennon” for musical performances. Yoko’s attorneys asked Lennon Murphy’s attorneys and manager to withdraw her registration of exclusivity to the name LENNON for the trademark. Yoko also offered to cover all costs Lennon Murphy had incurred in filing for the trademark. But Lennon Murphy went ahead to register.

    Yoko did not sue Lennon Murphy, but sought to stop her from getting the exclusive right to the name Lennon for performance purposes. For that, Yoko’s attorneys, simply notified the Trademark office that Yoko did not believe it was fair that Ms. Murphy be granted the exclusive right to the “Lennon” trademark in relation to musical and entertainment services. As you can see, this is a very important issue for Yoko and the Lennon family.

    Yoko says: “I am really hurt if people thought that I told a young artist to not use her own name in her performances and had sought to sue her. I did no such thing. I hope this allegation will be cleared.”

    Thank you for your kind attention,

  47. I feel bad even saying this with Yoko’s comment up there, but:

    “I am regualarly asked if I was named after the Beatle, having always replied no. My mother named me after “John Lennon that wrote songs, painted, and baked bread with his son”. She named me for the man, not the pop star.”

    She means John Lennon the man, who neglected his first son and beat and cheated on his first wife?

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