Tom Waits has won a landmark legal intellectual property case in Spain brought against car manufacturer Volkswagen-Audi and production firm Tandem Campany Guasch.

Tom Waits has won a landmark legal intellectual property case in Spain brought against car manufacturer Volkswagen-Audi and production firm Tandem Campany Guasch.

The Appeal Court in Barcelona last week (Jan. 13) ruled in favor of Waits after the American singer-songwriter accused the parties of wrongfully misappropriating his vocal styles in a sound-alike TV commercial.

It is understood to be the first time that such moral rights have been established in a Spanish court. The ruling effectively recognizes an artist's voice as his creative work.

The parties had appealed a Barcelona court's decision in early March 2004 to pay unspecified compensation to Waits and his publisher in Spain, Hans Kusters Music, for infringement of copyright.

Tandem's commercial for Audi cars was screened in Spain in 2000. In the initial judgment, the court agreed that the ad's music followed the same structure as Waits' 1987 track "Innocent When You Dream," as well as utilizing Waits' distinctive gravel-voiced style. Waits had rejected Tandem's earlier request to use his original version of the song.

The Spanish action is the latest in a string of legal actions Waits has taken to prevent his music and image from being associated with commercial products. In 1990, he won $2.5 million in a suit against Frito-Lay Inc. and its ad agency, having maintained that his singing style was copied in an ad for Salsa Rio Doritos chips.

In a suit filed in the U.S. Superior Court in 1993, Waits sued Third Story Music, the publisher of much of his earlier catalog, charging they licensed his material for use in foreign TV spots without his contractually dictated consent. And in 2001, Waits filed suit against Vivendi Universal's online subsidiary MP3.com, claiming it distributed his music without authorization.

Waits is also suing car manufacturing giant General Motors and ad agency McCann Erickson in Frankfurt, Germany, for using an imitation of the singer's voice in a series of commercials. Among other claims, that suit charges the defendants with violating Waits' moral rights under German law.