Metallica Tell Wheel Company: Don't Tread On Me

Group asks manufacturer to recall all products bearing band's name.

Metallica have discovered some new competition, and we don't mean Slipknot or Disturbed.

The hard-rock band, going beyond the usual T-shirt and poster sidelines, now markets automotive products and has run into a California company that two years ago introduced a shiny, edgy wheel called the Metallica. No fair, the rockers say.

"We've already expanded into the automotive industry by selling Metallica tire wheel covers," the band's lawyer, Jill Pietrini, said. "Part of our natural expansion [includes selling wheels], and they're trying to usurp the market, which isn't right."

Never mind that MHT Luxury Alloys of Torrance, California, discontinued its Metallica wheel after only one season on the market. The band has asked the company to recall all Metallica products from its customers and to enter a settlement, or face a lawsuit.

"My boss is 48 years old and doesn't know much about the music industry," MHT sales manager Steve Anderson said. "The wheels were metal, so he called it the Metallica. That's all there was to it."

In a letter sent to MHT, Metallica gave the company until August 9 to respond to a settlement proposal that neither party would detail. Pietrini said she hasn't heard back from MHT but still wishes to settle the case without filing suit. Anderson said his company is likely to comply with Metallica's demands.

The wheel incident is just the latest in a series of actions Metallica have taken against companies using the band's name without permission. In January 1999, the group sued slinky-lingerie company Victoria's Secret for producing Metallica lip pencils (see "Metallica Sues Victoria's Secret"). That case was settled out of court, but Pietrini wouldn't discuss the terms.

That same month, the band filed suit against two other companies: West Mill, a tuxedo-manufacturing licensee of Pierre Cardin, which used the band name in its advertisements, and nail file manufacturer Cosmar, which embossed file sleeves with "Metallica" (see "Metallica Pushing Ahead With Multiple Trademark Lawsuits"). Both cases were settled.

In another case, the band sued French perfume maker Guerlain and the Neiman-Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman department stores for selling a Metallica perfume (see "Metallica Raise A Stink Over Perfume Name"). The legal papers were filed in December 2000, and a trial will likely be set for April or May of next year, Pietrini said.

The most easily resolved case involved a wrought-iron furniture manufacturer in Waco, Texas, who is a huge fan of the band. After receiving a cease-and-desist order from the band in December, he changed his outfit from Metallika to JKL Metalsmiths.

As evident from irate bulletin-board postings across the Internet, many fans can't see why a wealthy, multiplatinum band is so quick to file suit against anyone who uses the name Metallica, regardless of how far removed the products are from the band.

"I know that perception [of Metallica as a greedy, lawsuit-crazy band] is out there," Pietrini said. "I just don't think it's accurate. We always try to resolve things without litigation."

Pietrini added that Metallica get involved in more than 10 copyright infringement cases per year and usually resolve them without going to court. "It's just a matter of a company having the right to protect its name," Pietrini concluded. "I couldn't start up a Coca-Cola record company."