Steve Lynch outlines his position as defendant in lawsuit over trademark rights for Autograph band name
Things are heating up with Autograph as current band members Simon Daniels (lead vocals, guitar) and Marc Wieland (drums) have filed a lawsuit against band co-founder and guitarist Steve Lynch and a number of other defendants over the trademark rights for the Autograph band name. Lynch has elected to provide some details of the lawsuit including his position and rationale behind why he should legally succeed in that regard.
Of note, Autograph co-founding member and (now deceased) bassist Randy Rand‘s widow Regina Rand seemed to initially be supportive of the current band line-up consisting of Daniels, Wieland, guitarist Jimi Bell and bassist Steve Unger but now seems to have soured with respect to the foursome carrying on as Autograph.
The following message was posted on Lynch‘s Facebook page earlier today:
Today I speak as a defendant to my own legacy in a lawsuit filed by Daniel Simoni (aka Simon Daniels) and Marc Weiland. The lawsuit claims that they are “Autograph” and the sole owners of the trademark which I have no rights to. After a 40-year career creating the band and the trademark, the absurdity of this claim defies reality and is “beyond” rational thinking, as well as the law.
To be clear, the legacy I will defend was created with my band brothers Randy Rand, Steve Plunkett, Steve Isham and Keni Richards. As the “Defendant” to my own legacy in this lawsuit, I share this experience with every fan that has sung the words to “Turn up the Radio”, and every artist that has created original music that endures and transcends time. We know that no matter who performs our songs, Autograph will always be the five original members who created those songs. And those who cover them, are understood to be the musicians who play as a tribute band in our honor.
When Randy and I reunited, we both owned successful businesses. He operated a leather goods business in LA, and I owned a music school in Seattle. So, the reunion was for the sole purpose of having fun. We took it down a few notches from our “party ninja” days of the 80’s, but we brought our “A-game” to every performance. Neither of us had delusions of grandeur that this was to be the “2nd coming” of Autograph with promises of fame and riches, with the likes of platinum album sales and touring sold out arenas. To the contrary, it was a handful of gigs a year at a few theatres, casinos, and festivals. Knowing it was for fun, we didn’t spend much time recruiting members to play with us – Simoni had his day job operating a dog kennel from his home, and Weiland did freelance recording and producing from his home. For fun, we released an album of tracks that we didn’t take seriously, and it went away as quickly as we made it. As “weekend warriors”, we would meet and play the songs our fans came to hear from our 80’s albums—the songs everyone knows and loves. I did this for the next six years until a flare up carpal tunnel (the woes of my 8-finger guitar tapping technique!) forced me to take a much-needed break from performing… doctors’ orders. Randy continued the next six months until Covid hit and closed everything down for the next 2 years. With the world coming to a complete stop, I took time to pursue other hobbies, which included writing, photography and hiking while reconnecting with the love of my life (Suzanne), knowing someday I would return to music and Autograph. However, the universe had other plans.
With the passing of our last original performing member, Randy Rand, it marked the end of the Autograph era. Randy was the heartbeat of the band, the consummate entertainer with mischievous humor that galvanized our 40-year bond. Before I could begin to grieve this loss, the hijacking began, which is now at the heart of this legal battle.
As Randy was hospitalized in a coma, I heard nothing from Simoni, Weiland or Bell. Instead, Plunkett and I were immediately contacted by their Booking Agent, who called and sent several correspondences with concerns about their weekend “gigs”. The Booking Agent wanted to confirm that the handful of bookings Randy committed to could continue and stated that after which the guys knew that they would need to change the band name (he stated that the name had not yet been determined). During this difficult time, I received many condolences from the other gracious members who played in the band and recorded with us as Autograph over the years, none ever made the ridiculous claim that the band was theirs. It’s true what they say, life events like bring out people’s true character or lack thereof.
Typically, the normal response from musicians invited to play with a well-known band after there are no remaining members left in the band, is to thank the OGs for allowing them the opportunity to perform under their trademark. Musicians who perform with the original members enjoy the residuals of the blood, sweat, time, resources and struggles of those who created the foundation for its success. My friend and great fellow guitarist, Adrian Vandenberg, said it best when he experienced a very similar situation and allowed me to quote him here in saying:
“It is basically like when you invite a couple of people for a ride in the backseat of your new car, and then after the ride the passengers claim that the car is now theirs because they were given a ride in it. Some people have no shame.”
These guys were all paid for their weekend rides over the years but decided it’s more profitable to carjack the vehicle and take a FREE RIDE. Guess they thought no one would notice…
Most musicians use the experience to go on to enjoy their own endeavors… OR they seek a license agreement with the original members for use of the name. Bands can license their trademark in various ways for music or to sell merchandise, but what bands don’t do, is give their TRADEMARK (the crux of a BRAND) away to replacement members for FREE, as if it were some sort of parting gift. To suggest that Randy Rand gave them this as his last words, especially given there are two original members that are still alive and well, is frivolous and grasping “beyond” reality.
The reality check is that these guys can NOT get the “gigs” or album opportunities on their own merits—they need to use what the original members created to appear relevant. “Desperate people do desperate things” is an understatement.
Through the courts, there will be a full discovery process, which includes forensic accounting of Marc Weiland’s bookkeeping as to every penny earned, spent, and owed to me as they keep playing this desperate endeavor. Interrogatories, subpoenas, depositions under the penalty of perjury will become public record and ironically part of their legacy. What I found most disturbing will be the disclosures of emails and text schemes by Daniel Simoni and Jimi Bell to “play dirty”, which even had their own record company’s attorney question their acts as being “unfaithful deposits and thus illicit.” I expect more lawsuits in their future.
My music career has never been about money, although the current performers owe me plenty of it. The prospect of Autograph with no original members feels like a “sell out” of the band name for money, which doesn’t square with me and feels completely disingenuous to the fans. A “no-sell-out” policy has always been our position, as the Autograph band agreement requires that an original member must be involved to continue. This position was consistently communicated in conversations, emails and in the standard cease and desist letter. I have read the articles and the overwhelming comments from fans that echo this sentiment – “these guys are a tribute band now.”
Finding myself in this situation, the outpouring of love and support from fans wanting to hear me play has led me to consider recording and performing as Autograph again—perhaps there may be one more round before I sign out, please! (Pun intended).
Apart from Autograph, I have spent decades as an author, instructor, clinician, and mentor to many young musicians. I have encouraged the spirit of artistry but informed them that the struggles they would face to “make it” in this industry would be exhausting, but still achievable. I warned of unsavory “opportunists” who will masquerade as allies only to steal their creative and intellectual property for their own profit. I say to these students – take time to select the musicians you work with, stay true to yourself and to the music you create. Fans will always respect you for that.
Although a lawsuit was not welcomed, I will fully engage in this legal battle and the courts will offer a transparent record in this frivolous lawsuit to steal the legacy and its profits from the original owners. I will share this experience with every fan that has supported our dream and enjoyed our music, and, with every musician who will someday create a legacy of their own.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and hope it gives you a better understanding of the situation. I remain confident this will be resolved, and justice will be served. Thank you!
Autograph’s “Turn Up The Radio” video (from Sign In Please album released in 1984 featuring original members):
Autograph‘s “This Ain’t The Place I Wanna Be” video (from Beyond album released on Nov. 18, 2022):