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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Bob Marley probate dispute: Will everything be all right?

It seems that the heirs of Bob Marley are wondering if "everything's gonna be all right." Minnesota music aficionados may be interested to know that the famous reggae singer's widow and nine children have sued Marley's half-brother. They seek to enjoin him from using the singer's name to promote an annual music festival in Miami and other business ventures. Marley died of cancer in 1981 at age 36, and 30 years later this probate dispute centers on the legal right to profit from the deceased singer's music fame.

While probate litigation generally refers to legal disputes about the validity of a last will and testament, it is no secret that estates of entertainers such as Marley, Elvis and Michael Jackson continue to earn mammoth sums of money long after the entertainer has died. In the case of Marley, his widow and children are seeking to prohibit his brother from using Marley's name in connection with the Nine Mile Music Festival held every year in Miami, as well as in connection with a tourist business in the Nine Mile region of Jamaica. As such, the litigation seeks to protect Marley's estate in the area of copyright and trademark laws.

The lawsuit was filed in federal District Court in Florida. There was no immediate response from Marley's half-brother, and the lawsuit will now work its way through the federal court system. Presumably, the widow and children are acting on behalf of Marley's estate and will likely seek injunctive relief barring the brother from profiting from the singer's name, which is known by fans in Minnesota and across the world. At stake is the prospect of earning millions of dollars in profits, as the singer's songs such as "I Shot the Sheriff" and "No Woman, No Cry" remain hugely popular three decades after Marley's death.

Source: Associated Press, "Bob Marley heirs sue half-brother in US over name," Curt Anderson, Dec. 2, 2011

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