Michael Jackson’s estate on Tuesday sued a foundation that bears the name of one of his most famous songs, “Heal the World.”
The federal court lawsuit claims the Heal the World Foundation is improperly using trademarks and Web sites to create the impression they were approved by Jackson to solicit donations.
The current administrators of Jackson’s estate — attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain — have a probate court’s authority to protect Jackson’s image and likeness and prevent sales of unauthorized merchandise. They have negotiated deals for official Jackson merchandise, including a coffee table book, trading cards and calendars.
The lawsuit claims the Heal the World Foundation had no relationship with Jackson or his family.
After-hours phone messages left for the foundation and an attorney were not immediately returned.
The suit claims Jackson created a charity based on his hit “Heal the World” in 1992, but it dissolved a decade later. “Defendants’ acts of infringement and unfair competition have been committed with the intent to cause confusion, mistake and to deceive,” the lawsuit claims.
The current Heal the World Foundation was formed in 2008 and trademarked its name. The lawsuit claims the foundation has sought trademarks for terms associated with Jackson, such as “Thriller,” “Neverland” and “King of Pop.”
Jackson’s estate has applied for trademarks of similar terms.
The foundation’s Web site includes photos of Jackson and describes itself as a “universal charity organization designed to improve the condition of all mankind.”
In August, the foundation filed a notice of its intent to use Jackson’s name and sell merchandise in the singer’s estate case.
The lawsuit claims trademark infringement and unfair competition, and seeks a cancellation of a trademark for Jackson’s initials that the foundation has already received.