Who didn’t see this one coming? The Red Hot Chili Peppers filed a lawsuit on Monday against Showtime Networks over the name of the David Duchovny series “Californication,” which also happens to be the name of the band’s 1999 album and hit single.
According to a statement issued by the band’s management, the suit alleges unfair competition, dilution of the value of the name and unjust enrichment, claiming the title is “inherently distinctive, famous … and immediately associated in the mind of the consumer” with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Singer Anthony Kiedis said in the statement, ” ’Californication’ is the signature CD, video and song of the band’s career, and for some TV show to come along and steal our identity is not right.” The suit claims that in creating, marketing, promoting and distributing the show, the defendants have been “fraudulent, knowing, willful and wanton” by appropriating the title of one of the band’s biggest sellers, which it said has moved 14 million copies worldwide and was nominated for a Best Rock Album Grammy.
“The Red Hot Chili Peppers would never have allowed their iconic album and song title to be used as the title of a television program — much less this one,” Justin Ehrlich, the band’s lawyer, said of the album, which was also in Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums of all time. “They are particularly offended that Showtime used its material without permission.”
The Showtime series, which debuted in August, stars former “X-Files” lead Duchovny as novelist Hank Moody, who is struggling with a midlife crisis in the midst of a serious bout of writer’s block. The title of the show isn’t the only Chili Peppers reference. In fact, actress Rachel Miner plays a secretary named Dani California, the same name as the hit single the Peppers released in 2006, featuring a character that has appeared in several of the group’s songs. (Interestingly, that song was widely criticized at the time of its release for its striking similarities to Tom Petty’s 1993 hit “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”; both songs were produced by Rick Rubin.)
Musical references are sprinkled throughout the show, which was recently picked up for a second season. During a scene in the fifth episode guest-starring Henry Rollins, Duchovny mentions the names of three of his novels, which also happen to be the names of Slayer albums. The show has also made frequent references to late singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, and the first season’s finale was called “The Last Waltz,” an homage to Martin Scorsese’s concert film of the Band’s famed final show. Other episode titles alluded to the Sex Pistols (“Filthy Lucre”) and Bob Seger (“Turn the Page”).
The suit, which names show creator/ executive producer Tom Kapinos and two production companies, seeks damages and a permanent injunction barring Showtime from using the title. Showtime did not respond to requests for comment at press time. At a Television Critics Association press tour in July, Kapinos explained to reporters that he first heard the word “Californication” in reference to the state of Oregon, according to an Associated Press report. “Apparently in the ’70s there were bumper stickers that said, ’Don’t Californicate Oregon,’ because Californians were coming up there, and I just thought it was a great, great title for this show,” he said.
[This story was originally published at 12:00 pm E.T. on 11.19.2007]