Jefferson Starship guitarist can pursue lawsuit over band name

FILE PHOTO:    Guitarist Paul Kantner performs during Summer of Love 40th anniversary concert in Golden Gate Park
FILE PHOTO: Guitarist Paul Kantner of the band "Jefferson Starship" plays on stage during the "Summer of Love" 40th anniversary concert at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California September 2, 2007. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo

August 11, 2017

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A founding member of Jefferson Starship may pursue part of his lawsuit seeking to stop former bandmates from using the rock group’s name, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James said the guitarist Craig Chaquico may pursue a breach of contract claim against David Freiberg, Donny Baldwin and other musicians for performances and merchandising since January 2016, when co-founder Paul Kantner died.

The San Francisco-based judge also dismissed Chaquico’s claim for earlier alleged contract breaches, and a trademark claim over the use of his likeness.

David Swift, a lawyer for Chaquico, in an email said he was pleased his client can pursue his “core” claim.

“It is important to Mr. Chaquico to protect the legacy of Jefferson Starship by preventing unauthorized bands, like defendants in the case, from using the iconic name,” he said.

A lawyer for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to court papers, members of Jefferson Starship agreed to retire the name in 1985 after Kantner left.

Eight years later, Chaquico allowed Kantner, “and only Kantner,” to use the name in connection with live performances and merchandise, the complaint said.

James said that when Freiberg and Baldwin later joined Kantner’s revamped Jefferson Starship lineup, their use of the name was “related to Kantner’s use,” but this ended after his death.

In dismissing the trademark claim, the judge said Chaquico failed to show how the public, and especially fans “more likely to be familiar with the history of Jefferson Starship and its multiple iterations,” would be confused about his involvement.

The band was an outgrowth of Jefferson Airplane, which was founded in the 1960s and is remembered for now-classic songs such as “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” which featured singer Grace Slick.

In the mid-1980s, following Kantner’s departure, it evolved into Starship, where Slick and singer Mickey Thomas were featured on the No. 1 hits “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”

The case is Chaquico v Freiberg et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 17-02423.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

  • Brain Droppings

    BEST AIRPLANE album ?

    “Bless it’s pointed little head” recorded LIVE in Frisco right near Woodstock times.

    It’s…amazing.

    • shock 1956

      Tough call. Volunteers or Surrealistic Pillow. I’m a little stunned at all the negative comments on this thread about JA. Starship, I can understand. They had a completely different, more polished sound than JA. If I could turn back the clock and be at Woodstock ’69 and hear/see/experience only one artist from that event, it would be JA. For a lot of reasons I won’t go into here. 🙂

      • Bill Jr

        Really Aren’t You Discounting “The Jimi Hendrix Experience?”

        • Brain Droppings

          Personal taste.
          My choice was ….SANTANA, WINTER, then, HENDRIX…..

      • Brain Droppings

        Second choice is ALWAYS…………… “VOLUNTEERS”

  • Brain Droppings

    Worst band I have ever heard live, IF you discount the actual worse band that came on stage first….The Turtles.

  • tedlv

    Avoid the lawsuits, call your band the “Jefferson Drones”. Totally relevant in today’s silly society.

  • Barry Soetoro-Chin

    I hate to tell Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas, but neither they, nor Jefferson Starship, nor Jefferson Airplane built San Francisco.

    They may have permanently destroyed the ‘City by the Bay,’ with their ‘free love’ promiscuity and illegal drug use, but they didn’t build anything positive.

  • soupy264

    I wasn’t into Airplane,or Starship. But I sure like Chaquico’s Jazz

  • R A.

    I remember seeing the Starship in the 70’s when they had Papa John Creach (violinist) touring with them and he was the ONLY reason I went to see them.

    • 808Americans

      A wonderful musician and composer to be sure.
      To this very day.

    • tedlv

      I never liked the Airplane nor Starship music much. I did like Grace Slick’s comment when a talk show host brought up the horror that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” brought to children. She said she was the mother, and she had control of the remote, controlling what she allowed her daughter to see. Gotta respect her for that. The host was speechless.

      • R A.

        Same here – I remember the main reason I went to that show was to see Papa John Creach.
        Glad I went!
        Grace Slick – ehhhhh
        Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac – YEEESSSSSSSS!

  • Fredd_Ziffle

    I’m actually surprised over how much I completely don’t care about any of this.

    • EjB

      I was thinking the same thing. Wasn’t crazy about them in the 60s. Not crazy about them now, and I sure as hell wouldn’t pay money to see a bunch of geriatric rock stars on stage. Bad enough the stones are doing that crap. It’s embarrassing.

      • Visualverbs

        Jefferson Starship was not around in the sixties.

        • Bill Jr

          No They Were Too High In An Airplane For That!

        • EjB

          Excuse me, but Jefferson airplane was.

  • gary lacey

    Should be a statute of limitation. So the band reformed in 1993 and then in 2016, 23 years later, he wants a piece of the action????
    Did this fellow hit upon hard times?

    • Bill Jr

      The Ole Good Royalties Ain’t What They Used To Be, Ain’t What Used To Be…Many Long Years Ago!
      Vacations Are Now “…Saturday Afternoon…”

    • EjB

      Lol. This was the generation that said “don’t trust anyone over 30.” I know. I am part of it, although I never had that mindset. So with that thinking, their shelf life should have expired at 30.