Feuding front men clash in court over group name
Two founding front men of a legendary rock band clashed in court as one claimed the exclusive right to use its name – as "keeper of its light" after 44 years in the music business.
Andrew Powell – who jointly formed Wishbone Ash in Torbay, Devon, in 1969 – is locked in a costly legal battle with guitarist, Martin Turner, 65, the man who coined the band's distinctive name and who claims to have been its original "creative force".
Wishbone Ash has had a variety of line-ups over the years, Mr Turner's barrister, Madeleine Heal, told London's High Court, adding that the band's output between 1969 to 1980 had marked its "most successful, critically acclaimed and lucrative period".
The band's biggest break arguably came with the release of its third album, Argus, in 1972, which has been praised as "one of the classic rock albums", said Ms Heal.
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Since its heyday in the 1970s, the band, which was hailed for its pioneering guitar sound and still has thousands of die-hard fans, has kept on producing records, with its most recent work Elegant Stealth achieving more than 30,000 sales.
But in court Ms Heal accused Mr Powell, 63, of acting "in bad faith" 13 years ago by registering Wishbone Ash as a community trade mark without Mr Turner's knowledge.
The barrister claimed Mr Powell's purpose in filing the trade mark was "to obtain and benefit from exclusive rights to the name without any reasonable belief that he was properly entitled to it".
But Richard Harris, for Mr Powell, insisted he was entitled to "ownership" of the name on the strength of being the "last man standing" from the band's original line-up.
Although both men were "original founder members" of the group, the barrister claimed Mr Turner had stepped away from the band in later years, although enjoying a "number of stints" back with Wishbone Ash along the way. Mr Powell was, by contrast, a constant figure in the band, and had "worked tirelessly" to promote its name and work.
There was nothing "improper" about his step in registering the name, said Mr Harris, adding that "at the time he made his application he had no idea that any of the former members had any interest in the name".
"They had all left the band, they were all ex-members, and he was acknowledged as the one carrying the band forward," he said.
At issue is whether Mr Powell has the exclusive right to use the band's name, and – if so – whether Mr Turner infringed his trade mark by performing under the title "Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash". Mr Powell is also seeking a court order requiring Mr Turner to surrender his internet domain name, www.wishboneash.co.uk.
Judge Campbell reserved his decision and will give his ruling at a later date.