Legal and Management

Jimi Hendrix’s Brother, Niece Found in Contempt of Court for Violating Trademarks

Jimi Hendrix
Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images

Jimi Hendrix performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 18, 1969.

In the wake of the Jan. 11 ruling, Tina Hendrix tells Billboard her family is “devastated and disappointed about the judge’s decision."

Jimi Hendrix’s brother Leon Hendrix and niece Tina Hendrix are in contempt of court for violating a permanent injunction against infringing on the iconic guitarist's protected trademarks, according to a ruling Monday from U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York.

Engelmayer ordered Leon Hendrix and his daughter Tina Hendrix, along with their tuition-free Hendrix Music Academy, to recall and destroy all apparel and merchandise bearing any Jimi Hendrix name, to change the name of the school to make it clear it is not affiliated with Jimi Hendrix and to “cease and desist” infringing on the late rocker's trademark.

Experience Hendrix and its licensing arm, Authentic Hendrix, was created by the rock icon's father, Al Hendrix, after his son’s death in 1970. Al Hendrix “handpicked” several family members to help manage the estate including Jimi’s cousin Bob and “expressly excluded Leon Hendrix and his family from that management team,” according to court papers. It is now run by Janie Hendrix, the adopted daughter of Al Hendrix and his late wife Ayako "June" Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix's step mother.

Tina Hendrix tells Billboard that her family is “devastated and disappointed about the judge’s decision and I strongly feel that it was incorrect and unjust for several reasons.”

The contempt ruling against Leon and Tina Hendrix follows a lengthy court battle that began in 2017 when Experience Hendrix LLC -- the sole owner of the late rocker's musical compositions, sound recordings, copyrights and trademarks -- and Authentic Hendrix LLC, the licensing arm for Hendrix, filed an infringement case. Experience and Authentic Hendrix sued Leon Hendrix and a business associate for trademark infringement, deceptive acts and false advertising, among other claims.

In Oct. 2019, the court entered a permanent injunction against Leon Hendrix and his corporate entities, finding they had worked to create “the illusion of an empire of ‘authentic’ Jimi Hendrix goods which include[d] cannabis, edibles, food, wine, alcohol, ‘medicines,’ and electronic products,” according to court papers.

The following July, the court formally adopted the injunction in favor of Experience Hendrix, LLC and Authentic Hendrix, LLC, and against “Leon Hendrix, his corporate entities, . . . partners, . .” and a judgment of $402,018.53 against Leon. But just three months later, Experience and Authentic Hendrix told the court that Leon and Tina Hendrix were violating the court’s permanent injunction order.

“Experience Hendrix only seeks to disenfranchise Jimi Hendrix’s next of kin from participating in his legacy at all costs, for no other purpose than corporate greed and to spread public misinformation that only they are Jimi’s family [when] in reality they are not,” continues Tina Hendrix. “This battle is not about money but the right to use my own family birth-given name for charitable purposes. This is more about free speech and our rights are being violated by this order and the order preceding this case, which was a default judgment against my father."

She adds, “I am astonished that the courts have sided with Experience Hendrix and stripped us from our rights to use our own family surname after a lifetime of doing so. This is a rare occurrence. The plaintiff gained the Hendrix name by virtue of adoption and has used it ever since, only to exploit millions of dollars off of Jimi Hendrix’s music, while using the proceeds to eliminate Jimi’s biological family members one by one, starting with Jimi’s own son, then Jimi’s brother and now his niece. I have never made one dollar off of my uncle while running a free music school for kids."

Despite the fact that Leon was forbidden by the court from using “the name ‘Jimi Hendrix,’ the name ‘Jimi,’ the name ‘Hendrix,’ in any configuration . . . ; any Hendrix registered or pending trademarks . . . ; or any image, likeness or signature of Jimi Hendrix . . . in any manner, including but not limited to the sale, naming, identifying, offering for sale, marketing, labeling, packaging, promotion, distribution or advertising of any product or service, or in connection with any goods and services,” he subsequently gave an interview for the purpose of advertising and promoting the sale of a purported Jimi Hendrix guitar, according to court papers.

In addition, the court said that Leon and Tina Hendrix hosted and sponsored a benefit to raise money for their non-profit “Jimi Hendrix Music” and sold an accompanying Jimi Hendrix T-shirt on their website featuring an image of Hendrix on the front and a Hendrix quote, followed by a protected Jimi Hendrix signature on the back.

While Tina Hendrix argued in court pleadings that the money raised for the HMA academy was for a non-profit charity, the court said non-profit status does not free it from its duty to comply with the permanent injunction. Engelmayer also ordered Leon to pay opposing counsel’s attorney fees and said if he and Tina Hendrix failed to comply there could also be a further fine imposed, stating that Leon "carries the keys of his prison in his own pocket.”

Tina Hendrix tells Billboard, “I only seek to educate kids about Jimi and use his name for non-profit purposes. My grandfather gave us that right in 1988. Everything that we received from Jimi's fans went to the students and their families. We have proudly served many needy families in honor of Jimi over the past decade. This work has never interfered with Experience Hendrix’s business or profits, it only interfered with their lies. We are desperately seeking pro Bono legal advice at this time and we intend to fight this until the end. We are and always have been known as the Hendrix Family since my father was born in 1948. Why should we be silenced and prevented from telling our family’s history when we are the only ones who could ever tell it? This is an example of how history is re-written to accommodate ones lies based upon greed and to spread misinformation as fact.”

This story was updated Jan. 13 at 3 p.m. ET to correct the name of Janie Hendrix, who in an earlier version was referred to as Janie Jinka.

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