Legal and Management

Ramones Heirs Reach Truce in Bitter Trademark Dispute

Ramones
Howard Barlow/Redferns

Ramones

After a year of arbitration, Joey Ramone's brother and Johnny Ramone's wife have come to terms over the use of the name Ramone.

The two heirs to The Ramones' legacy appear to have reached a truce in their bitter dispute over treatment of the band's legacy following an arduous and lengthy arbitration.

Legal proceedings between singer Joey Ramone's brother, Mitchel Hyman, and guitarist Johnny Ramone's widow, Linda Cummings-Ramone, have been ongoing for nearly a year. Hyman and Cummings-Ramone each own 50% interests in Ramone Productions Inc. (RPI), the company which markets license and produces memorabilia and music-related products bearing the group's name and likeness. Cummings-Ramone also acts as the company's co-president and director. A final arbitration agreement was filed Monday in New York.  

Joey (born Jeffrey Hyman) and Johnny (born Johnny Cummings) Ramone died in 2001 and 2004, respectively -- both from cancer.

Hyman originally brought claims against Linda Cummings after she legally changed her name to Ramone in 2014. Hyman claimed that Linda's use of the Ramone name was "improper and unauthorized." Furthermore, he claimed that by using the Ramone name on social media and advertising that, she was breaching the band's shareholders agreement and diluting the intellectual property of the Ramones. He also wanted to stop her from referring to her Los Angeles house as "Ramones Ranch." Hyman's attorney also claimed that Linda was trying to "deceive Ramones fans and the public into believing that this is the official home of the Ramones" and of  "exploiting Ramones Intellectual Property for her own purposes and misappropriating corporate business opportunities for her own personal financial gain, self-adornment and benefit."

Hyman requested that Linda to be permanently ordered to stop using the name "Linda Ramone" or any name that has the "Ramone" surname, make her take down "LindaRamone.com," stop her from using the term "Ramone's Ranch" or "#ramonesranch" or from using any hashtag that contains the word "Ramones." Hyman also accused Linda of promoting herself as the Ramones company president instead of the its co-president. He sought damages in excess of $275,000.

Linda countered, accusing Hyman of not acting the best interest of the company, but instead acting in a self-interested manner, saying he would "repeatedly, unreasonably withhold consent and approval for use of Ramones IP," breach their settlement agreement and has harass her through litigious proceedings. She demanded $5 million for his interference. The arbitrator Bob Donnelly assigned to the case said the battle between the two was akin to "a feud worthy of the Hatfields and McCoys, but unworthy of the highly esteemed Ramones brand," according to court documents.

Donnelly said that because of their disagreements between the two that their "destructive behavior is likely to have resulted in lost opportunities and casting a pall on the Ramones' brand in a manner that might discourage third parties from wanting to be become involved with similar commercial or promotional activities." He also said "the internecine fighting has probably created a toxic environment that would discourage many promoters and presenters from wanting to invest their time and money in developing a Ramones exhibit."

Per the arbitrators decision, Linda is barred from using the name Ramones Ranch unless she obtains the approval of Hyman, but she is allowed to us the terms "Johnny Ramone Ranch" or "Linda Ramone Ranch." She also may use the name "Linda Ramone" to present her annual "Johnny Ramone Tribute" event. Both Hyman and Linda were ordered to advise each other in writing of any corporate opportunities related to the Ramones' business. Hyman was barred from opposing or in anyway diminishing the opportunities to obtain trademarks for the names "Johnny Ramone" and "Linda Ramone," of which Linda was declared the rightful owner.

After Donnelly made his final recommendation in the case, he felt compelled to get both parties "to consider the perilous path they are on and hopefully make some substantive changes in order to avoid round four of these costly and time consuming arbitrations."

Donnelly added: "I have undertaken this Comment section because I want to try to change the behavior of the parties, which has led to three time-consuming and costly arbitrations and cause the Ramones brand to experience tepid growth. Micky Hyman and Linda Cummings-Ramones have been entrusted with the exceedingly important mission of preserving the legacy of the Ramones for its existing followers, and to grow this iconic brand to a new world-wide group of music fans. The only way those goals can be accomplished in my estimation, is for there to be some radical changes made by Mickey, Linda, and their representatives and the way they all conduct the business of the company."