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Dweezil Zappa steps up legal battle with siblings over use of his own name

By | Published on Tuesday 26 September 2017

Dweezil Zappa

Frank Zappa’s son Dweezil is planning to ask the US Trademark Office to arbitrate in a dispute with the Frank Zappa Trust over the use of his own name when performing music.

“For the past 36 years I have used my own name in the field of live music and entertainment and now two of my siblings claim to own my name and seek to prevent me from using it freely”, he says in a lengthy statement published yesterday. “On principle alone, I must defend myself”.

This is the latest of several battles over Dweezil’s use of the Zappa name, which stretch back to when he began performing his father’s music under the name Zappa Plays Zappa in 2006. Shortly after he began touring that show, his mother Gail trademarked the Zappa Plays Zappa, forcing him to licence it from the Trust.

After his mother’s death in 2015, Dweezil’s siblings Diva and Ahmet took control of the Trust, and seemingly ordered their brother to cease using the Zappa Plays Zappa name until he had negotiated a complicated new set of rights in relation to his live shows.

Refusing, he just changed the name of the project to Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa, which the Trust again said infringed its trademarks. Thus, Zappa ultimately ended up on a run of shows titled ‘Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants – The Cease And Desist Tour’.

This has resulted in an ongoing legal battle, which Dweezil has partly funded through a campaign on Pledge Music. This, he says, has led to a new claim from the Trust that Dweezil’s use of the Zappa name may cause confusion among consumers and therefore he should not be able allowed to use it at all.

For its part, the Trust has denied that it is trying to block him from using his own name, although the wording of those statements possibly implies that the Trust simply has no problem with him going about his day-to-day life being called Dweezil Zappa.

If you haven’t been keeping up with this case – and, to be honest, it’s so much more complicated than this summary suggests, so I can’t blame you – all this ongoing acrimony within the Zappa clan might come as a surprise. Because just last week the Frank Zappa Trust announced plans for Frank Zappa to tour as a hologram next year.

The press release for that announcement specifically suggested that Dweezil might get involved. “How radical would it be … to see Dweezil side by side with our father playing duelling guitar solos”, said Ahmet in a statement. “That would be my greatest wish and I look forward to bringing this special celebration of Frank’s legacy to a town near you”.

However, says Dweezil in this week’s statement, not only is he not involved with this hologram tour project, the first he heard of it was from social media after the announcement was published.

Off the back of all the coverage the Zappa hologram project got last week, Dweezil has now boosted his campaign to raise legal funds via Pledge Music with new t-shirts emblazoned ‘No fake Frank’ and a bundle featuring a new live album and additional merch named the ‘I’m Allergic To Holograms Bundle’.

A portion of the funds raised will be donated to earthquake and hurricane relief charities. Once that is done, he plans to use the remaining money to force a decision from the US Trademark Office on the matter of whether or not he is allowed to use the name Dweezil Zappa in relation to entertainment services.

“These ridiculous and inconsistent positions that the ZFT continually take puts me in a position of asking the United States Patent & Trademark Office to resolve this issue once and for all”, he writes.

Dweezil estimates that the trademark action could cost him around $30,000. Although, ironically, he says in his statement, as a beneficiary of the Trust, he is also funding the case against him.

The Frank Zappa Trust has not commented.