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Trademark Tiff: 'Zappanale' Wins in Court Against Gail Zappa

A German court has ruled that the Zappanale, a festival celebrating the music of rock legend Frank Zappa, does not violate the trademark held by Zappa's widow Gail. The moustache and soul patch can stay, too.

The Frank Zappa festival in Bad Doberan, Germany, known as the Zappanale, can continue. That's the verdict reached by a court in Düsseldorf on Wednesday. Furthermore, the festival may continue to use its logo depicting the American rock star's unique facial hair, his moustache-soul patch combo.

A giant bust of Frank Zappa graces the town center of Bad Doberan in northern Germany.
DPA

A giant bust of Frank Zappa graces the town center of Bad Doberan in northern Germany.

Frank Zappa's widow, Gail Zappa, filed the suit in early 2008 because of what she saw as a violation of the Zappa trademark. She sued the Arf Society, which organizes the annual Zappanale near the Baltic Sea coast and sells merchandise with its version of the Zappa logo, for €150,000 ($193,000) in damages plus a further €250,000 should the Zappanale continue selling Zappa merchandise.

But the court on Wednesday found that the Zappa Family Trust, which is headed by Gail Zappa, was unable to prove that it actively uses its trademark in Germany, a requirement for such lawsuits to win. Furthermore, the differences between the official Zappa logo and that used by the Zappanale, the court ruled, were great enough to preclude confusion of the two.

Thomas Dippel, who heads the Arf Society, told the German news agency dpa that he was "very satisfied" with the verdict and says he is looking forward to the 20th anniversary of the festival this summer. The Zappanale started as a small underground festival in East Germany in 1989 and now attracts fans from around the world for its mixture of Zappa cover bands and "Zappa-esque rock," as Dippel calls it. In 2008, almost 10,000 fans showed up.

The case centered on trademark infringement, but Gail Zappa told SPIEGEL ONLINE last April that she was particularly concerned that the Zappanale was not being adequately true to Frank Zappa's music. "My obligation, which I cannot be relieved of by anyone other than Frank Zappa, is to protect the intent and integrity of his music," she said. "That's my job. I have no choice."

Gail Zappa has been active in her pursuit of that mission and in recent years has filed suit against a number of Web sites selling unauthorized Zappa merchandise. Frank Zappa died of cancer in 1993.

cgh -- with wire reports

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