Last New Year’s Eve, 2,000 festive souls gathered in the
Gardner, a member of the original Coasters group that has been enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in
This man, Billy Richard, claims to own part of the Coasters trademark and, according to his manager, appears with his cloned Coasters band “80 percent of the time.” But he was not present at the
Why do I mention this? Because the courts’ refusal to halt the cloning of the Coasters poses grave legal threats to the way we do business. Imagine, for example, if a couple of guys who once worked for Steve Jobs in the glory days when Apple was revolutionizing the personal computer business then went out and established a new company called Apple. Imagine if some former Dean Witter employees decided to set up a roving brokerage firm called Dean Witter. Imagine if a handful of managers who had been with Sam Walton from the beginning set up a bunch of barn-like retail emporiums and advertised them as Wal-Marts. Wouldn’t the public be a little confused? Wouldn’t the original Wal-Marts be a little upset? Wouldn’t the courts take a little notice?
You say this couldn’t happen? Don’t be so sure.
How do the cloned Coasters get away with this duplicity?
“People don’t care,” he complains bitterly. “They accept any four black guys. They don’t have the knowledge. Would that happen with the Beatles? No way.” No, but it could happen with other cloned ensembles, and this is why the courts must move quickly and decisively to resolve the cloned Coasters situation. Does this society need a dozen clones of the Colorado Rockies baseball team wandering around the nation muffing fly balls, misplaying easy grounders, and throwing the ball into the stands? Do we need a dozen clones of the sexist rap group, 2 Live Crew, spewing obscenities in concert halls? Do we need a dozen alumni of Mike Milken’s junk-bond empire resurfacing as cloned versions of his bucket shop on Rodeo Drive, all passing themselves off as the original Drexel Burnham Lambert?
Last but not least, consider this terrifying thought: If the courts do not take immediate steps to shut down all the knock-off Coasters groups, it could embolden U.S. Postal Service or Internal Revenue Service employees to spin themselves off into dozens of cloned IJSPS’s and IRS’s.
I’m warning you: This could get ugly.
Joe Queenan is a regular contributor on business issues, corporate culture, and financial follies to Barron’s and The Wall Street Journal.