IP report: Blackstone’s chambers music

Here is a brainteaser for you: what two things do boy band Busted, ’80s pop combo Duran Duran and indie rockers Snow Patrol have in common?

The answer is that they have all been involved in intellectual property (IP) disputes concerning the value of their band names. And Blackstone Chambers has won instructions on all of the cases, developing a nice little niche for itself.

Chambers co-head Ian Mill QC and junior Tom Weisselberg have scooped a brace of leading roles on two high-profile music litigation cases, leading on intra-band disputes involving Duran Duran and Snow Patrol, instructed by Russells Solicitors litigation partner Brian Howard as defence on both cases.

Last year the dynamic duo also acted for two band members of Busted in a High Court bust up, which is seen to be the precedent for all band partnership disputes. Meanwhile, Blackstone’s Charles Flint QC and Andrew George acted for the group of partners that left Hammonds, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard partner Pietro Marino.

It is understood that the Snow Patrol case, which saw former member Mark McClelland sue the remaining band members for a share of the band’s royalties, has settled. Clintons advised McClelland, instructing John Baldwin QC at IP set 8 New Square and Edmund Cullen at Maitland Chambers.

Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon et al were apparently waiting for an outcome on that case to see what line they should take in their own dispute. Now, without the High Court’s guidance, they could end up bringing a bit of showbiz to the Royal Courts of Justice later this year.

Music litigation is a small but lively niche of IP work. The market has seen a flurry of high-profile spats between members of pop groups. The reason could be that the economic crisis has made band members more nervous about their assets.

The problem is that band members form a business partnership, but often forget to set down a written partnership agreement. When one band member leaves or is kicked out they often seek compensation based on how much the band’s brand is worth (which is difficult to value at the best of times).

Mill at Blackstone said: “Band members frequently trade in partnership. When a band breaks up or a member leaves for any reason, there has to be a valuation of the partnership assets and an appropriate accounting between the band members. It’s surprising how often bands don’t have written partnership agreements.”