Led Zeppelin victory in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ copyright lawsuit may signal a shift in intellectual property claims involving popular music

by Jay Pate

Led Zeppelin’s recent legal victory in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed over the band’s song “Stairway to Heaven” may dampen the number of intellectual property lawsuits filed over pop songs, legal experts say. The number of copyright lawsuits filed over allegedly stolen pop songs had been growing steadily following a verdict in a case involving Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” that was reached last year.

The lawsuit against Led Zeppelin was filed by a trust representing the late guitarist for the band Spirit, Randy Wolfe. The lawsuit accused Led Zeppelin and its two songwriters, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, of stealing from Spirit’s song “Taurus” when they wrote “Stairway to Heaven”, one of the group’s biggest hits. A federal jury later ruled that Zeppelin had not illegally borrowed from “Taurus” in the composition of “Stairway”.

Although both “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven” were both written and recorded more than 40 years ago, and although Wolfe died in 1997, the late guitarist’s estate was able to file a copyright infringement lawsuit following a Supreme Court ruling involving the film “Raging Bull”. The trust representing Wolfe’s estate was seeking to recover royalties from “Stairway to Heaven” that it alleged amounted to several million dollars in revenue.

The “Stairway to Heaven” verdict comes at a time when intellectual property lawsuits over works popular music are becoming increasingly more common, both because of new technology that makes acts of alleged infringement easier to spot, as well as other copyright verdicts against artists that allegedly borrowed from pervious works. In 2015, the estate of singer Marvin Gaye won a $7.4 million verdict against singers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over the song “Blurred Lines”, which allegedly stole from Gaye’s song, “Got To Give It Up”. Since the “Blurred Lines” verdict, other popular artists, including Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and Ed Sheeran, have also faced copyright lawsuits for alleged intellectual property theft.

Legal experts say that the verdict in favor of Led Zeppelin shows that intellectual property lawyers may need to think twice before filing a lawsuit over alleged copyright violations. One attorney—commenting on the verdict—said that it would not be surprising if the judge in the case ordered Wolfe’s estate to pay Led Zeppelin’s legal costs for defending against the lawsuit.

Intellectual Property Lawsuits Filed By Heygood, Orr & Pearson

Intellectual property litigation can be a complex process that requires expert legal counsel. The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have handled hundreds of commercial litigation cases involving alleged damages ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to tens of millions. Our law firm has successfully represented businesses of all sizes, from small “mom and pop” businesses to some of the largest corporations in the world.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have handled intellectual property claims brought by a large company for infringement of its rail car patent, claims by a local inventor for infringement of her patent for a childcare product and claims by an Israeli company against a Fortune 500 company for infringement of its wireless technology patent. Our firm has also represented a client suing a large American pharmaceutical company for interfering with its patent rights to liposome technology.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has the experience to take even the most complex patent case and explain it in terms a jury can understand. We have a track record of proven success representing businesses large and small. Beyond our specific experience in the field of intellectual property, our ability to prosecute patent infringement action is aided by our extensive trial experience in general. While technical knowledge and familiarity with patent rules is a must for attorneys handling patent infringement claims, there is no substitute for courtroom experience.

If you or your company is in need of representation in an intellectual property matter, contact us for a free consultation by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.

by Jay Pate

John “Jay” Pate is a licensed attorney who focuses his practice on complex tort litigation involving catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and product liability cases.