Grand Funk Railroad says Mark Farner, who helped form the Flint-born rock group before he left for a solo career, violated an injunction that limited his use of the band's name.
Founding members Don Brewer and Mel Schacher continue to tour as Grand Funk Railroad while Farner tours as a solo artist.
Grand Funk Railroad, with hits such as "We're an American Band," "Some Kind of Wonderful," and "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)," filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids alleging Farner violated a 2004 permanent injunction that limited Farner's use of his former band's trademarks, or "marks," in promotional materials.
"By virtue of its many decades of popularity and sales of concert tickets, records, songs and related goods/services, the (Grand Funk Railroad) Marks THE AMERICAN BAND, GRAND FUNK, AND GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, among others, have become famous, and are strongly associated with Plaintiff," Traverse City attorneys David Bishop and David Cvengros wrote in the complaint.
"GRAND FUNK RAILROAD is a musical phenomenon which has toured throughout the world and sold millions of records, including twelve 'Gold' albums (sales of at least half a million) and ten 'Platinum' albums (sales of at least one million), and two Billboard number one million-selling singles ... ," the lawsuit said.
Farner, the former lead singer and guitarist, and Just Having Fun Productions Inc. could not immediately be reached. Farner left the band in 1983 for a solo career, returned in the mid-1990s, then left for good in 1998.
The lawsuit alleges trademark infringement, unfair competition and violation of a 2004 permanent injunction signed by now-retired Judge Robert Holmes Bell.
It said Farner violated the injunction, which called for, among other things: that Farner's first and last names appear in capital letters before a reference to Grand Funk or Grand Funk Railroad, with only the first letters of the band capitalized, and first letters of the the words, "former," "formerly" and "member" also capitalized.
"Currently, and in open defiance of this Honorable Court's Permanent Injunction, Defendant Farner has undertaken a concert tour series promoting himself using the Plaintiff's Marks, using, without Plaintiff's permission, the Marks GRAND FUNK RAILROAD and THE AMERICAN BAND ... ," the lawsuit said.
It cited seven violations in advertisements for his concerts, including, primarily, improper use of capitalization. For instance, in a promo for a March 2 concert in Milwaukee, it was billed as MARK FARNER'S AMERICAN BAND." A March 3 concert in Medina, Minnesota, was billed as "Mark Farner formerly from Grand Funk Railroad."
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The lawsuit also challenged Farner's trademark application for "MARK FARNER'S AMERICAN BAND" as "confusingly similar" to Grand Funk's "THE AMERICAN BAND."
The lawsuit said the band faces "irreparable harm."
Beyond damages, it asks that Farner be prohibited from any use of the band's name or "American Band" and to surrender trademark registration for "MARK FARNER'S AMERICAN BAND."