Marley heirs wage global war on trademark pirates

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Bob Marley’s heirs are going to great lengths to ensure that that they protect their dad’s trademark. They will be going all out to enforce their exclusive rights to an image that has grown steadily in scope and appeal since the Jamaican superstar died of brain cancer in 1981 at age 36.

The Marley name, look and sound are estimated to generate an estimated $600 million a year in sales of unlicensed wares. Legal sales are much smaller - just $4 million for his descendants in 2007, according to Forbes magazine. The Marleys refuse to give a figure.

Now the family has hired Toronto-based Hilco Consumer Capital to protect their rights to the brand. Hilco CEO Jamie Salter believes Marley products could be a $1-billion business in a few years.

A representative of the Bobo Ashanti order, a Rastafarian group, also expressed support.

"Bob Marley was and still is a stepping stone for many around the world who seek Rastafari roots and culture," said the Rasta rep who identified himself as the Honorable Prophet Moambeh Acosta in an e-mail. "We can only hope and pray for the (family's) success ... as the task seems insurmountable due to the years of piracy and counterfeiting."

Rather than focusing on street vendors, who hawk everything from Bob Marley T-shirts to beach towels, the partnership is creating a new line of products dubbed 'House of Marley' and will police the trademark vigilantly.

Snowboards and tropical Jamaica may seem an odd pairing, but they're among a wide variety of planned merchandise featuring the dreadlocked musician's image, name or message - backpacks, stationery, headphones, musical instruments, restaurants.

Items are expected to hit the market in mid-2010.