The Animals had their biggest hit with a cover of American blues song 'The House Of The Rising Sun'. They only stayed together for three years, between 1963 and 1966, though they reformed a handful of times and re-released 'The House Of The Rising Sun' a further two times.
Original drummer John Steel has in recent years taken to performing as The Animals, Animals II or Animals And Friends. Originally he performed with two other members of the band, guitarist Hilton Valentine and replacement keyboard players Dave Rowberry and Mick Gallagher.
Steel told an Intellectual Property Office (IPO) hearing that the other members of The Animals have either died or stopped performing, and that he and Burdon are the only active performers left.
Steel applied for a trade mark for services relating to recorded and live music in The Animals in 2004, and Burdon opposed the application, saying that Steel was acting in bad faith.
The IPO's hearing officer found that Steel had every right to trade mark the name for his musical activities because the rights that the original band had had long ago disspiated.
"To my mind, the goodwill accrued by the band during the period 1963-1966 would have long dissipated by 11 February 2004, the date of the application, despite the minor top ups provided by the half hearted reunions, re-releasing of the same song on two occasions, featuring on an advertisement and two films and being inducted into a museum in the USA," said the officer, who ruled the application valid because no prior goodwill existed in the name when the application was filed.
Burdon had argued before the IPO that any rights in the name should attach to him. The hearing officer did not agree.
"The opponent seems to contend that he is, at least in his own mind, a rock and roll legend whose mere existence serves to keep the goodwill in the original band alive. He is I am afraid mistaken," the officer wrote. "His counsel described him as 'the charismatic lead singer and songwriter who has captivated the hearts and imagination of generations upon generations of teenagers the world over' and also stated that 'Noone remembers the drummer'. As to the former, this was not borne out by the evidence provided and with regard to the latter I trust that she does not encounter Ringo."
The hearing officer said that the long period of dormancy between 1966 and 1993, when a version of The Animals first reappered, and 1999 when appearances seem to have become more regular, was a crucial factor in his decision.
"The goodwill generated by the original band called The Animals during the period 1966-1968, topped up by later activities, had totally dissipated by 1993, and even allowing for the further events was still absent in 2004," he said.
Trade mark law expert Lee Curtis said that such disputes over the names of old bands are increasingly common, and that the outcome depends on the band's activities.
"It would have been different if it had been The Beatles, who have kept their goodwill going with releases, and who have always been in control of their brand," he said.
"What the hearing officer is saying is that the goodwill in the name would have been owned by all the band members in the sixties, when they would have had common law rights in it. He's saying that that goodwill has evaporated by now," said Curtis.