Zappa Family Loses Festival Battle

Frank Zappa’s widow has failed to stop a German festival from using her late husband’s name and image.

The higher court in Dusseldorf ruled Jan. 21 that Gail Zappa and her family trust’s rights haven’t been violated, as they couldn’t show that they use the Zappa brand in Germany.

It also said Zappanale Festival, an annual event held just outside Bad Doberan since 1990, may continue to use Zappa’s name and his image on the festival logo and related merchandise.

The court said Gail Zappa, who had known of the festival since it started, had no right to demand removal of a bronze sculpture of Zappa at the festival site and damages of euro 250,000 ($325,000) if the festival continues to use the Zappanale name.

The old East German town’s festival programme features various bands performing the music of the late composer and guitarist. Many musicians who played with Zappa have performed at Zappanale.

“We have always been certain that we have the older rights,” said festival spokesman Thomas Dippel, head of the German Zappa fan club.

“We have also patented the name of the festival with the German patent office. Gail Zappa only applied for the patent of her own rights in 2002,” he explained.

Thousands of Zappa fans previously demanded the withdrawal of the lawsuit, which was launched in April 2008.

Many of the festival’s organizers originate from East Germany and grew up in an era when Zappa’s music was considered unacceptable by several Eastern European communist countries.

Festival co-founder Wolfhard Kutz was persecuted by the East German secret police, the Stasi, for being a Zappa fan.

When all Stasi files were declassified by the German government in 1992, Kutz learned that his file stated that he “knows how to influence the youth with Zappa.”

The 2008 Zappanale festival had 6,800 visitors. The 2009 edition is scheduled for Aug. 12-16.