RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Phish
is kicking off its reunion tour with a lawsuit against bootleggers in Virginia and across the country.
The Vermont-based rock band, which developed a cult following over two decades before splitting up, will perform for the first time since 2004 on Friday night at the Hampton Coliseum in southeastern Virginia. But first, the foursome will ask a judge to block the sale of bootleg T-shirts, posters and other merchandise at its upcoming concerts. U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson will consider the band's request for an injunction Thursday afternoon.
Phish says in court papers that it has had trouble with bootleggers in the past. The band wants police to seize any unlicensed Phish merchandise being sold at or near its concerts, beginning with its three performances this weekend in Hampton.
Phish also is seeking unspecified damages against the defendants, identified only as "John Does 1-100 and ABC Corporations 1-5" because the band can't determine who might try to peddle unlicensed goods. Because they are generally nomadic individuals without a business premises or other connection to the area, Bootleggers often flee the area permanently once they have sold Bootleg Merchandise," the band says in its complaint.
Phish says the company authorized to sell its merchandise first obtained orders authorizing the seizure of bootleg goods sold during a tour in 1994. Thousands of illegal items were seized then and during subsequent tours until Phish broke up in 2004, the band says, but the scofflaws routinely skipped out on court hearings. The band or its individual members own federal trademarks for the names Phish, Phish Food, Oysterhead
, Gamehendge, Waterwheel and Vida Blue, according to the complaint. Ben & Jerry's manufactures Phish Food ice cream under license, the band says, and more than 1 million T-shirts bearing Phish trademarks have been sold under other licensing agreements.
The group also announced today that the three Hampton shows will be available as free MP3s for a limited time on their music download site LivePhish.com
Phish has sold about 8 million albums since the 1980s but is more famous for live performances, which feature the band's freeform style and attract a Grateful Dead
-like following. All the concerts on Phish's national reunion tour are sold out.
By LARRY O'DELL Associated Press Writer
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