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Rob Zombie Claims He Owns the Word "Zombie"

on June 17, 2009 - 5:49pm

Zombie and lawyer silhouetteWe see the word zombie everywhere: movie titles, song titles, books, t-shirts, stickers...you name it. It's as common a word as tinfoil or chocolate.

If I tried to copyright or trademark the word 'chocolate', lawyers would laugh at me. I can claim ownership of something like Chickie's Chocolate or Chocolaticious (if they aren't taken), but not just the word chocolate on its own (or banning any derivative use of the word in the future).

Got it? Good. Now that you understand the very basics of the law (and have a hankering for chocolate), we can move on.

Rob Zombie has threatened to sue someone for using the word 'zombie', claiming ownership of it.

Not the phrase Rob Zombie but the word zombie.

Eric Weiss posts zombie humour on twitter as ZombieRiot. That's how I know of him.

He is also part of ZOMBIE!, a solo multimedia project with a focus on horror rock, artwork, and clothing.

Weiss expands on the project:

(ZOMBIE!) started out as just hobby around Halloween (2008). I set up a myspace to just share some of my own Misfits photography and a few horror rock songs I had written. Mostly for other Misfits fans. It was a fun and positive way to vent. But, it really took off. I was getting over 1K of friend reqs per week. The jokes, videos, and artwork were always part of it too. Just sharing cool twisted stuff. Artists started submitting work to me. Kids were making fan videos using my songs. Other bands started covering the songs. I'm still really blown away. Fans started to take the music more serious, so I wrote a bunch more. I figured I would put out a CD and get an actual band together, hence my trademark application to protect my logo.

ZOMBIE! logoAnd that is when Rob Zombie - or at least his over zealous lawyers - took notice. They want Weiss to cease and desist; stop using the name for the band, for the art, and especially for the t-shirts available online.

What's their argument? Consumers will think ZOMBIE! is led by Rob Zombie. The letter states that Weiss' logo ruins "the enormous goodwill" that is uniquely associated with Rob Zombie.

Goodwill, eh? Hm. If this lawsuit persists, I don't think they'll have to worry about the goodwill associated with the mark "Rob Zombie".

Sorry, but when I hear the word Zombie, I don't immediately think of Rob Zombie. If anyone, I think of George Romero.

Did White Snake and White Zombie have a huge case I missed over their use of the word "White"? And is there a pending suit against the White Stripes?

Let's get a better example. What about the band The Zombies (formed in 1961)? Have they done battle with Rob over his last name?

I could understand if Weiss called the project Bob Zombie or Robertson Zombie, but not the single word zombie with an exclamation point.

And wait, Rob Zombie was born Robert Bartleh Cummings. Just because you legally change your last name to a common word, it doesn't automatically give you full ownership over that word. I can't change my last name to "Canadian" and then demand anyone who uses it will be sued.

What does the letter say specifically? I'll post the whole thing for you at the end of the article so you can see for yourself. But here's the demand:

You confirm to us in writing that you will permanently cease using the mark ZOMBIE! or any other name or mark that includes ZOMBIE.

And that's the interesting part. They don't want him to use the word ZOMBIE at all.

Will Weiss, if he's able to keep the logo trademark, go after others who use the word zombie?

For the record, I would just like to state that I filed a trademark to protect my logo and my right to use ZOMBIE! to avoid this kind of BS. It was filed out of defense, not offense. In my trademark, I claim no right to the word "zombie" at all. I'm not the first and I won't be the last to use "zombie" in a music project. I'm fine with that. All I want is the right for my logo & band name to coexist. There has never been a music project simply known as ZOMBIE! and I feel that I should be able to use it. I've played 1 show, sold a few shirts, and I give my music away for free. I firmly believe there is no confusion with Rob Zombie or White Zombie in regard to my project and there never will be.

Personally, I'm not a big Rob Zombie fan. I think it's ballsy for a director who is only pumping out remakes to have an issue with copyright or originality.

I think his team of lawyers are going to try and squash Weiss financially. And who is next?

But more importantly, I'm aghast that Rob Zombie thinks he controls the word Zombie. Zombies - in all mediums - were around long before he came on the scene, and will be part of the entertainment industry long after he's gone.

Page 1 of the letter

Page 2 of the letter

Spread the word. Talk about this story. Blog about it. Post it on forums. Don't let Rob Zombie think he can bully other artists out of using the word Zombie which, frankly, is apparently too cool a word for him to use, never mind own.

UPDATE:

Overzealous lawyers it is.

Apparently Rob Zombie has contacted Weiss directly by phone this afternoon. He said he was unaware of the actions his lawyers had taken, and told Weiss "we are all good"; there will be no further action.

So Rob Zombie is not a complete douchebag (or the Internet is a powerful tool), but he needs to teach his lawyers to cease and desist in their random acts of douchery.

And for goodness sake, can you lay off the remakes?

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