The music history books are filled with stories of successful bands that broke up, but not all of those breakups led to lengthy legal battles over the rights to the band's name. Band names are precious, and it's understandable that members would want to hold onto the moniker that made them rich and famous. Still, most of the bands that broke up and went on to fight over their name likely never imagined their disputes would become a notable part of their lasting legacies.
Whether a petty dispute or a rational claim, most bands that break up don't expect to deal with issues surrounding their name in the years after their final show.
In one of the more infamous cases of band name disputes, Pink Floyd founding member Roger Waters left the band in 1986 to pursue a solo career, then subsequently sued his bandmates David Gilmour and Nick Mason to stop them from using the name. The legal dispute was ugly and played out even uglier in the press, but ultimately, the two sides reached an agreement out of court.
In a 2013 interview with BBC, Waters said he regretted taking legal action against his former bandmates.
"I was wrong! Of course I was," Waters said. "Who cares?"
For decades now, The Beach Boys have been fighting. It's no secret that Brian Wilson and his cousin Mike Love haven't been on good terms, but after the band officially broke up, the trouble continued. Al Jardine formed The Beach Boys Family and Friends with members of Wilson's family in the late 1990s and, after member Carl Wilson passed in 1998, Love licensed "The Beach Boys" name and pursued legal action against his former bandmates.
"It's just not very well known by the general public," Jardine said in a 2014 interview. "I'm not allowed to use the Beach Boys name in my own way. I'm legally - what's the term - injuncted from using the Beach Boys name."
The metal band Ratt is known for their edge, and the clash for their name, which ensued after their split, is an example of just how heated they could get. Ratt reunited in 1997 and quickly fell apart again only a few years later, this time with more animosity among the members. Singer Stephen Pearcy walked out of the reunited group and formed his own version using the same name, and soon after, he actually sued his former bandmates for the rights to "Ratt." The lawsuit was eventually thrown out, and some years later, he reformed the original version.
It didn't end there, though. When Pearcy and bassist Juan Croucier formed a new version in 2016, early drummer Bobby Blotzer's already reformed version of Ratt was forced to cancel a show. This led to a couple of years of fighting in court, and in 2018, the case was finally put to rest - against Blotzer.
After the breakup of Jefferson Airplane, members Grace Slick and Paul Kantner formed Jefferson Starship in 1974. A decade later, Kantner quit the band - and sued his former bandmates for the right to use the band's name. The next year, all those involved settled, and in the settlement, the remaining members agreed to be known simply as Starship.
A handful of years later, Kantner decided to reform Jefferson Starship with his own new lineup, and things were going fine until 2000, when he decided to play some shows under the name Jefferson Airplane Volunteers - and that sparked a completely new lawsuit against him by Jefferson Airplane Inc., a corporation of which Kantner was actually a shareholder. Seven years later, Kantner was sued again, this time by Slick and former band manager Bill Thompson, for letting Microsoft use the name Jefferson Starship to promote some concerts.
In 2016, Kantner passed, but things didn't end there. A year later, there was another lawsuit among members over the use of the Jefferson Starship name. Needless to say, this band's legacy will not only be their music, but the years and years of feuding among the members over rights to the namesake.
After forming Electric Light Orchestra, also known as ELO, in 1970, the band didn't really get serious until 1972 when original member Roy Wood left, putting Jeff Lynne at the helm. In the 14 years until they disbanded in 1986, ELO had huge international success. Once Lynne chose to end the band, drummer Bev Bevan decided to continue on his terms. Lawyers got involved, and ultimately, the two members "amicably" agreed to let Bevan use the name ELO Part II for his continuation. In 2000, Bevan sold his share to the ELO namesake and chose to continue the new band under the name The Orchestra.
In 2014, Lynne formed his new version of the band under the name "Jeff Lynne's ELO." The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, but Bevan did not attend.
In 2012, pop quartet En Vogue founding members Cindy Herron and Terry Ellis sued former member Maxine Jones for "illegally touring" under the name En Vogue. According to Herron and Ellis, they owned the LLC, so they reserved the right to the name, not Jones.
Fourth member Dawn Robinson, while named in the suit, was not actually involved, as she agreed to give up the legal right to the name a few years prior. Herron and Ellis sued Jones for $1 million in damages, and although a judge sided with the two women in their case to reclaim the name, he didn't award them any money because they didn't prove there were actual damages.