T.S. Monk, son of the late jazz musician Thelonious Monk, filed a lawsuit yesterday against North Coast Brewing in San Francisco federal court, alleging that the Fort Bragg brewery is exploiting his father’s likeness without permission. For a decade, the brewery has sold a Belgian beer in the style associated with Trappist monks, using an image of the late musician holding a beer and dressed as a monk in a pun on his last name.
The Monk estate did originally grant the brewery rights to the image for sale of beer, according to the suit, in exchange for an agreement to donate profits to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. “The Brewery makes a donation to the Institute for every bottle of Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale sold,” North Coast’s website explains.
But in 2016, according to the lawsuit, Monk’s son took back the permission after he saw the likeness was being used on merchandise beyond beer bottles. On North Coast Brewing’s website, there are more than a dozen T-shirts, sweatshirts, and mouse pads with the same logo for sale. The beer has also been on signs at events, like one that declared it“the Official Beer of the Newport Jazz Festival”at Fort Adams in Rhode Island.
T.S. Monk is seeking compensatory and punitive damages of more than $75,000 from the brewer.