The Jackson estate claims that Melissa Johnson who runs the "Heal the World Foundation" out of an office in Palm Desert, California is "unlawfully seeking trademarks using the name 'Michael Jackson.' Johnson is also seeking trademarks of the phrases "King of Pop", "Thriller", "Neverland" and 38 more with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Johnson did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment in response to the lawsuit.
In a press release, the Special Administrator of Jackson's estate John G. Branca is quoted as saying that the estate took action in an effort "to be vigilant in protecting Michael's legacy from unauthorized exploitation and in protecting Michael's fans from being deceived."
The complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, indicates that the foundation's claim of a link to the Jackson legacy is causing confusion among those who want to license the Jackson name. For example, the complaint alleges that "when one of the largest toy manufacturers wished to obtain a license to produce and distribute toys bearing Michael Jackson's trademarks...this toy manufacturer approached [the Heal the World Foundation]."
A note on the Heal the World Foundation's website indicates that all charitable work has been suspended as of July 31, 2009. It also indicates that "Before Mr. Jackson's passing we were in the process of setting up the initiatives for a future launch which was to be with Mr. Jackson's direct involvement."
The foundation's website calls for monthly donations, vehicle donations and lists 21 organizations and/or individuals seeking approval to run fundraisers connected to the Heal the World Foundation.
But the Jackson estate says the founding of Michael Jackson's original "Heal the World Foundation" in 1992 "had no connection to the defendants and, in fact, became dormant before he died."