Back in early February, American singer Lennon Murphy, who promotes herself simply as ‘Lennon’, posted a notice on her website declaring that Yoko Ono had filed a lawsuit against her. The reason, she said, was that she had trademarked the name and the former Beatles’ widow was contesting her right to it. In her online announcement Murphy stated she was worried that it could “very well mean the career that I have worked so hard at… may come to an end.”

Newspapers around the world immediately picked up on the story. Online forums and blogs were inundated with vitriolic posts decrying Ono’s heavy-handed tactics with someone who was only trying to protect their own name. Murphy appeared on the Howard Stern Show to highlight her plight and even gained support from Julian Lennon.

I was tempted to post a blog entry at the time but decided against it. Instead I held off so I could digest the story fully and take a look at the US trademark laws that could play a major factor in deciding the outcome of any potential lawsuit. It was probably a good decision, as within days Ono issued the following statement to Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing:

Dear Xeni

A musician named Lennon Murphy is claiming that Yoko Ono has sued her and that Yoko is seeking to stop Lennon Murphy from performing under her name, Lennon Murphy. Both of these claims are untrue.

Several years ago, Lennon Murphy sought Yoko’s permission to do her performances under her name, Lennon Murphy. Yoko, of course, did not object to her request. Subsequently, without Yoko’s knowledge, Lennon Murphy filed an application in the United States trademark Office requesting the exclusive right to utilize the name “Lennon” for musical performances. Yoko’s attorneys asked Lennon Murphy’s attorneys and manager to withdraw her registration of exclusivity to the name LENNON for the trademark. Yoko also offered to cover all costs Lennon Murphy had incurred in filing for the trademark. But Lennon Murphy went ahead to register.

Yoko did not sue Lennon Murphy, but sought to stop her from getting the exclusive right to the name Lennon for performance purposes. For that, Yoko’s attorneys, simply notified the Trademark office that Yoko did not believe it was fair that Ms. Murphy be granted the exclusive right to the “Lennon” trademark in relation to musical and entertainment services. As you can see, this is a very important issue for Yoko and the Lennon family.

Yoko says: “I am really hurt if people thought that I told a young artist to not use her own name in her performances and had sought to sue her. I did no such thing. I hope this allegation will be cleared.”

Thank you for your kind attention.


So it would appear Lennon Murphy was being somewhat economical with the truth! Far from suing her, Ono was merely filing an objection with the trademarks office because the nature of Murphy’s trademark could have implications for the John Lennon estate, as well as for the rights of his two sons (yes that includes Julian, although I think we can presume Yoko was thinking more about Sean).

The big question now is why did Murphy attempt to trademark the name in the first place? She could have continued performing under the name ‘Lennon’ without it and it would be perfectly legal, since that’s her real name.  I don’t buy into any excuses that she could have done it in ignorance either. She’s been performing full-time for around eight years and any professional musician starts to learn about the business in that time, no matter how naïve they are when they start out. Add that to the fact that Arista Records, her label at the time she applied for the trademark, have a good legal team who would have strongly advised Murphy against taking such a step. It’s more likely that Lennon Murphy knew exactly what she was doing and that she did it for a reason other than just protecting her name.

And the reason? Publicity, of course!

You don’t have to be a law graduate to realise that Yoko Ono will take action if you try and infringe on the John Lennon name. And when she does, you can bet it will be in the glare of the media. As it turned out Ono’s response was quite measured, so the situation had to be ‘spiced-up’ a little bit in order to gain attention. It worked and journalists willingly latched onto the story without questioning it. After all, wasn’t Yoko Ono the evil witch responsible for the Beatles splitting up and denying Julian Lennon his share of his father’s estate?

Just look at all the exposure Murphy has had since the story broke… money couldn’t buy it! Murphy has done everything from gigging non-stop for eight years to becoming a Suicide Girl in order to gain exposure and none of that has come close to the amount of press she’s received from simply portraying herself as a victim. In a way, I have to admire her for devising a means of free publicity on such a grand scale.

Though it’s said there’s no such thing as bad publicity, there may be a sting in the tail for Murphy in all this. Since the full details of the case became apparent there’s been something of a public backlash and it’s quite possible this negativity may irreparably damage her reputation and integrity as a performer. In fact, I’ve yet to read a supportive comment about her since the entire truth was revealed. People could think twice now before buying her music, resulting in promoters, distribution companies, and record labels becoming reluctant to do business with her for fear they will lose money. The media also appear to be shying away from providing her with any further coverage (in case they end up with more egg on their face, I presume). And to top it all off Julian Lennon – who’s likely to use any opportunity to get at Yoko Ono – has seemingly withdrawn his support for Murphy, having deleted all reference to her in his online blog.

All in all, Lennon Murphy has made one hell of a mess for herself. And even if she manages to overcome all this there’s still one problem. Her music sucks:

Lennon: Brake of Your Car

Believe me when I say that’s her best song!

  1. metalplayer says:

    You are so wrong, I will fill you in. First off EVERY major label record company requires the artist to secure the trademark for the bands name. Being an ex-label exec myself I would be willing to bet that Arista records paid the legal cost to get the trademark . That is usually what happens. If Yoko knew in 2000, and her staff was well aware of the mark, why wait 8 years. Lennon is a well established artist and yes the press helps but she has a career without it. Additionally Yoko only filed a cancellation because she couldn’t file an infringement claim because there is no infringement. I also can tell you that Yoko has no legal standing to file this action and she has zero case. Even if she did Yoko could never receive a mark for the name with Ms. Murphy’s use out there. Yoko has a real serious problem and if I was Ms. Murphy I would be happy to sit around and wait for Yoko to hang herself, then file a malicious litigation case against her which Yoko couldn’t win if she looses with the Trademark Board. Ms. Murphy might stand to get a huge check here, maybe she will share it with Julian. That would be so crazy!!!. Yoko is only causing a problem because there is some business deal looming in the background driving this whole thing. She could care less about Lennon Murphy, its about money….These cases always are and Ms. Murphy is really the victim here. The music might not be great, but then again Yoko is not exactly stellar….

  2. Lennon is a tool, her music is shit so she sold out by becoming a suicide girl, to distract people away from the poor quality of her music but yet they’d buy it because there’s a naked girl involved. So to sum it all up on short

    1) Yoko Ono has more of a life than worrying about Lennon Murphy
    2) Lennon Murphy is as musically talented as the sounds that come out of ones rectum
    3)She sold out, if she was really interested in her music career like she says it is, she would have kept her clothes on.
    4) her sexual fantasy is to have a midget sex slave. This is very offensive to the little people
    5) Julian hate Yoko so therefor he probably just supported Lennon to piss her off, plus there was breasts shown to him to numb his mind, so he didn’t really care what he says, he realises now he made a mistake.
    6) Her music is shit
    7) Her music is shit
    8) Her music is shit
    9) Her music is shit
    10) And this is a blog which is freedom of speech so its a bit ridiculous telling the writer that they are totally wrong. its impossible to censor the net, if it was possible there would be no Lennon videos in all her sluttiness.

    Did I mention her music is shit, don’t let the nakedness fool you!

  3. Metalplayer:
    I don’t believe you’ve looked at all the facts in this case, which I find surprising since you say you’re an ‘ex-record exec’. You’re correct in saying that labels require their artists to take out trademarks. However, Murphy overstepped the mark in this instance. She approached Yoko Ono requesting permission to perform under her birth name, Lennon Murphy (granted, she didn’t have to do this from a legal point – it’s seen more as an act of courtesy in these situations). Ono gave her blessing. Now, instead of continuing to perform as Lennon Murphy, she shortened her stage name to ‘Lennon’. Still nothing wrong there and she could’ve trademarked that with no problem. However, the problem is that the nature of the trademark she registered is somewhat broader than it should have been. Some points to ponder:

    (1) It will lead to implications for the Lennon family and their careers as performers (probably why Julian has since withdrawn all support)

    (2) Cancellation of the exclusivity doesn’t affect the applicants right to use the name – just that they don’t have exclusive rights to it

    (3) Ono is merely exerting her common law rights to the name ‘Lennon’ and ‘John Lennon’

    (4) All documentation at the trademark office appears to be in Yoko Ono’s favour and Lennon Murphy either misunderstands what is going on or is choosing to ignore the facts.

    The following link is to a comment posted on the BoingBoing article:

    I’d advise you to read it carefully. It takes an in-depth look at the trademarks held by Lennon Murphy and Yoko Ono and highlights in no uncertain terms just why Murphy’s trademark is overstepping the mark. (Obviously it’s been written by someone with a better knowledge of trademark law than you or I).

    Furthermore: If you look at Lennon’s response to Yoko Ono’s statement on her MySpace page, you’ll see that she completely dodges the question of why she sought total excusivity when it wasn’t necessary or correct (a question some people have raised in comments on in her blog while being ridiculed by clueless morons). Also, referring to Ono as a ‘Crazy Bitch,’ ‘Psycho’ or whatever is not appropriate language to be using against a person if you’re about to go head-to-head against them in court – as Lennon has been doing.

    Thanks for the back-up, but the arguments you’re making in this instance (midget sex,Suicide Girls, etc.) have no relevance to the discussion at hand, which is Lennon Murphy’s trademark debacle.

  4. バレンシアガ ブログ goro’s ゴローズ

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