Bob Marley’s Family Protects His Trademark


Bob Marley could never have dreamed that his song, “Get Up, Stand Up” would one day befit the global trademark wars being waged by his family.

The call-to-arms anthem from the Wailers’ 1973 Burnin’ album implored the downtrodden to “stand up for your rights,” but it also describes what his heirs, including children Ziggy, Stephen, Damian, Cedella and Sharon, all musicians, and Rohan, a former star linebacker for the University of Miami, are doing to protect their father’s image, legacy and brand.

Nearly thirty years after his death from cancer, Marley’s international presence is as strong as ever. It’s particularly powerful in his home country of Jamaica where visitors can’t walk past a market without seeing row upon row of t-shirts, posters and trinkets bearing his picture or hearing his iconic music playing on sound systems or sometimes from just a single speaker perched on a window ledge.

But the problem is there are too many people involved with the brand. Without proper oversight, it will become even more diluted than it is today.[more]

It’s estimated the Marley name, look and sound generate more than $600 million a year in sales, but just a fraction – less than 1%, according to Forbes magazine – comes from licensed wares. Nearly all of it is generated by players of all sizes with no connection to the Marley family who are trying to cash in on his image and never-ending fame.

The family has hired Toronto, Canada-based Hilco Consumer Capital to protect their rights to the brand and they’re preparing to launch a new line of products featuring Marley’s dreadlocked image, name or message on backpacks, stationery, headphones, musical instruments and even snowboards. Yes, snowboards. (While the latter would seem seriously out of place for a brand that was born in the Caribbean, Marley was an avid sportsman and known for his considerable soccer skills.)

Hilco and the family believe the “House of Marley” product line could be a $1 billion business in a few years, and they’re planning to protect the trademark vigorously.

The Marleys are hardly the first to take such a hardline stance – the estates of John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean have previously blazed the trail (and we’re yet to see the strategy Michael Jackson‘s estate will use) – what’s remarkable is that it’s taken them this long to “get up, stand up.”