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Michael Jackson estate sues business partner of late singer's mother

Lawsuit alleges that memorabilia created with Katherine Jackson's permission and other commercial ventures constitute 'wholesale misappropriation' of intellectual property. Howard Mann maintains that the estate can't sue him.

January 21, 2011|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times

Michael Jackson's estate filed suit against a business partner of the late singer's mother Thursday, alleging that memorabilia created with her permission and other commercial ventures constituted "wholesale misappropriation" of the pop icon's intellectual property.

The suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, accuses Canadian entrepreneur Howard Mann of "arrogant disregard" for the estate's rights and asks a judge to stop his company, Vintage Pop Media, from further use of Jackson's name, image and music.

"Protecting and preserving Michael's assets are a core responsibility of the estate and we will do everything the law permits to enforce those rights," estate lawyer Howard Weitzman said in a statement.

The filing of the suit moves a dispute that has long simmered in the press into the courthouse. The estate had cracked down on other unlicensed vendors, but not Mann, seemingly because of his close relationship with Katherine Jackson.

The matriarch, 80, is not mentioned in the suit. She told The Times last month that she was working with Mann because she needed more money than was provided by a monthly estate allowance of about $7,000. Mann said then that he had paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He contends that a legal loophole stemming from 2004 litigation brought by Jackson prohibits the estate from suing him and said in a statement that he welcomed the court battle.

The estate also seeks attorneys' fees and damages as well as the profits from the memorabilia, including a book of family photos Katherine Jackson promoted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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