The Sun Record Co. logo, with its striking shades of vintage yellow and brown, is one of the most recognizable designs in popular music history. It's also a moneymaking trademark that the historic Sun Studio at 706 Union Ave. in Memphis may no longer be able to use if the Nashville-based owner of Sam Phillips' famous Sun Records has its way.
Sun Entertainment Corp. — started by Shelby Singleton Jr. after he purchased Sun's assets from Phillips in 1969 — filed suit in federal court in Nashville this week, contending that the separately owned Memphis studio is violating the terms of a 1991 licensing agreement that governs the use of the logo.
The complaint says that the operators of the studio where Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash first recorded are improperly using "colorable imitations" of the logo in a way that avoids having to pay licensing royalties according to the terms of the 15-year-old contract.
John Schorr, president and general manager of Sun Studio Entertainment, the company that runs the Memphis studio, said he was "stunned" to learn about the lawsuit when made aware of it by The Tennessean on Wednesday.
"The ownership and management of Sun (Entertainment) has been to Sun Studio on many occasions spanning many years, without any indication of complaint about our licensed use of the Sun Record logo," Schorr said in an e-mailed response.
Mark Patterson, the Nashville attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Sun Entertainment, said the company appears to be selling merchandise using unauthorized logos that are almost identical to the trademarked Sun design. In addition, Patterson said the studio's Web site streams music by Sun artists, potentially im plying a false connection to master recordings owned by Sun Entertainment company.
"We felt that some of the things they we're doing went beyond the scope of the licensing agreement," Patterson said of the studio operators. "They pushed the envelope too far."
The studio itself was originally started by Phillips in 1949 as the Memphis Recording Service ("We Record Anything-Anywhere-Anytime"). The space mostly sat empty from the late 1950s until 1987, when a Memphis musician and radio host named Gary Hardy opened the Sun Studio as a tourist attraction, prompting a lawsuit that resulted in the 1991 licensing agreement with Sun Entertainment. Hardy filed for bankruptcy in 1995.
Neither Patterson nor Singleton could say how much money might be at stake with this suit, though the Sun name has gained exposure in recent years with renewed efforts to market Elvis memorabilia and last year's high-profile Johnny Cash biopic, "Walk the Line."
"I really couldn't tell you how much money is at stake," Patterson said. "That's part of the reason we filed this, so we could find out. "
SUN Sues SUNOctober 19, 2006 | Other Source:The Tennessean
Viva wrote on October 20, 2006
It didn't take long did it? No sooner has Mr Singleton jumped into bed with those corporate vultures EPE, and he's already started acting like them and trying to destroy everything which doesn't put all the money firmly in his own pocket. Well Mr Singleton, the one thing that sun studios do which you and EPE don't is showcase the Elvis legend with the respect, taste and dignity he deserves. You just stick to selling your endless line of "official EPE" Sun tat, and leave the business of doing Elvis justice to people who actually care about the great man.
Mystery Rider wrote on October 20, 2006
Shame Shame Shame on you Shelby Singleton, but the problem it instantly solved by me....take down the logo (dosent matter) put of the Memphis Recording Service Logo (but everyone still knows its Sun) and people visit, and you just sit in a bad light along with Greed and Company at EPE modeled after Colonel Greedy Parker the King of Greed and possibily the man who helped drive Elvis to a death which he did not deserve.
Tony C wrote on October 20, 2006
This is a simple legal case of copyright infringement. It is not greed to seek monies that are rightfully yours. If the Sun Studio owners wish not to pay a copyright fee then they should seek to buy the rights to the logo, which was rightfully purchased by Shelby Singleton.
byebye wrote on October 20, 2006
Your right Kilburn. It is also better for fans wishing to get their hands on original SUN merchandice such as T-shirts etc. I mean think about it, who would like to have a coca cola mug or whatever with a different messed up logotype rather than the famous original?? There must be a way for the Sun studio vs Sun record company to strike a copyright deal though, since both would benefit from it. Wich part that is too greedy to share, will probably be evident after the lawsuit process. Allthough Singleton (Sun record company) actually is the rightfull owner of the logo...
MauriceColgan wrote on October 20, 2006
John Schorr, would not be the kind of guy to like "Elvis Insiders" and their elitist Elvis ducks:-) He would not like Elvis's jumpsuit sessions either. At least that is the impression we got when we met him in Sun Studios back in 2002. As they say in at least one UK dialect "There's nothing as queer as folk". Some Elvis fans themselves cannot survive without attempting to denigrate others, often in a spectacular form...even when there is no cash involved so I guess in business the Dollar rules!
DEL BOY wrote on October 21, 2006
I totally agree with Mystery Rider. hame on you Shelby.. No doubt Shelby originally purchased the copyright to Sun mainly due to Elvis making that label famous. Mention any other Sun recording star to anyone and they probably will not know of their Sun link, unless, of course they are also an Elvis fan. Sun records is all about the Recording Studio. Many people get a thrill out of visiting the Studio and purchasing a Sun emblem product. Doesn't the studio shop also sell Sun releases. Who benefits from those sales, Shelby must get his cut. No doubt the sale of such 'Sun' products plays a major income towards the upkeep of the Studio, and the enthusiasts there have kept the Studio open. If Shelby is that concerned why doesn't he purchase the Studio, and contract out any recordings there. Just leave it alone....Long Live SUN!!