It’s not often that plans for a big 20th anniversary concert tour are marred by so much controversy, but that seems to be the case for the rock band, Stone Temple Pilots (STP). STP has filed a lawsuit against its former lead singer, Scott Weiland, claiming in part that they kicked him out back in February of 2013, yet Weiland (who now performs solo) continues to use the band’s name for his own performances, which allegedly violates the band’s partnership agreement.
Well, apparently, Weiland didn’t get the memo that he had been kicked out because in a letter to his fans that he posted on Facebook a few weeks ago, he stated, “First of all, they don’t have the legal rights to call themselves STP because I’m still a member of the band.” He also noted that when he does his solo tours, he uses his own name.
So, what led to the nasty breakup in the first place? The remaining STP members claim that Weiland had started acting in a way that had begun to seriously harm the band. Their attorney, Louis “Skip” Miller, said that they voted Weiland out for a number of reasons. Weiland would “show up hours late and had crazy, destructive behavior.” Simply put, they just don’t want to play with Weiland anymore. Let’s take a look at the complaint.
For those who aren’t familiar with STP, here’s a little background info. The four-man band was very popular and quite successful in the 1990s. Their first album, Core, topped the charts, selling more than eight million copies. The band put out five more albums, including the popular Purple album which debuted at number one here in the U.S. The band ended up separating in 2003, but they got back together in 2008 to do a reunion tour and they ultimately released a self-titled album in 2010.
Now, to the legalities. According to the complaint, STP’s partnership was formed back in 1992 and was confirmed via two written agreements–one in 1996 and one in 2010. The original 1996 agreement noted that the “management, conduct and all decisions of STP” were to be determined by a majority of the partners. Naturally, given their history of breakups and makeups, they found it necessary to enter into another partnership agreement in 2010 (which, in essence, simply reaffirmed the ’96 agreement and modified a few provisions).
The partnership agreement specifically detailed that each band member was required to make the band his “first priority commitment,” and it further noted that a partner could be “involuntarily expelled with good cause for, among other things, ‘grossly negligent performance or failure of performance of material duties, repeated late or non-appearances at concerts, death or disability, and similar serious misfeasance, malfeasance and failure of performance.'” The agreement also clearly stated that the name “Stone Temple Pilots” is the exclusive property of the partnership, not any individual members–former band members can’t use the name or refer to themselves as “former members of STP.”
Okay, just from the small portion of the agreement that is discussed in the complaint, it would seem that the case should be “open and shut”–but we don’t have the complete partnership agreement to get a fuller, more accurate picture. But let’s look at what got them to this point.
The Causes of Action
STP claims that Weiland breached their agreement by refusing to “make a first priority commitment” to the band’s performance engagements. Instead of agreeing to the tours that had already been approved by the band in a majority vote, Weiland “shirked his obligations to STP and sought instead to pursue solo business opportunities at the band’s expense.” The band also claims that Weiland caused them to lose millions of dollars when he refused several lucrative performance opportunities.
The band also argues that Weiland breached certain fiduciary duties, noting that STP is owed “special” duties, such as the duties of “loyalty, honesty, care and good faith and fair dealing.” In other words, Weiland had an obligation to perform all services and responsibilities under the partnership agreement with the highest degree of care and good faith. However, Weiland failed to fulfill his duties not only when he decided not to make STP business his “first priority commitment,” but also when he failed to inform the band of the true reasons for his refusal to comply with band duties and made false or misleading representations regarding STP assets, among other things.
Now, the trademark issue. STP claims that Weiland, in his use of the band’s name, images, artwork and the names of the band’s two most famous albums (Core and Purple), stole the band’s intellectual property to promote and advertise his solo career. STP states that Weiland has no right to use the name or any of their trademarks because they are owned by the partnership. Of course, STP claims that they have and continue to suffer irreparable harm because of Weiland’s actions, and they believe that they are entitled to injunctive relief. Simply put, they want Weiland to, among other things, stop using the STP name, stop stating or implying that he is or was a member of STP and stop using references to the band’s songs or album titles.
Weiland Fights Back
Initially, Weiland had not responded to the complaint, but apparently he recently filed a countersuit against STP, stating that his former bandmates “conspired against him.” In his complaint, Weiland asks the question, “How do you expel a man from a band that he started, named, sang lead on every song, wrote the lyrics and was the face of for 20 years, and then try to grab the name and goodwill for yourselves?” Good question, Weiland. We’ll be curious to see how this one plays out.