Loud Moments in Metal Law: Tommy Lee from Mötley Crüe, Drums, and Trade Secrets

Tommy Lee of MÖTLEY CRÜE takes Pfc. Shawn Martino of the 417th Engineer Company on a ride on the group's 360 degree drum roller coaster.
Tommy Lee of MÖTLEY CRÜE takes Pfc. Shawn Martino of the 417th Engineer Company on a ride on the group’s 360 degree drum roller coaster.

by Raizel Liebler

Regardless of whether most people know or like the music of Mötley Crüe, they know of Tommy Lee and his amazing spinning drum set, played while the entire drum kit and Lee turn around. During the time that Lee wasn’t in Mötley Crüe from 1999 through 2004, it seems like the other drummers, Randy Castillo and Samantha Maloney, didn’t use a spinning drum set.

Lee’s 360 drum roller coaster setup was the subject or a recent trade secret misappropriation claim in California State Court, filed in Los Angeles County — West Division. The complaint described the apparatus: “Lee would play his drums on a platform on wheels which would follow the track until Lee was in an upside down position playing the drums and he would continue playing the drums as the platform followed the track in a complete loop.”

The plaintiff lost his claim for several reasons, on a summary judgement motion, including:

– he didn’t act like there was a trade secret involved because he “handed the idea over to Lee” and others about the project without a non-disclosure agreement;
-the drum ring was independently developed without looking at the plaintiff’s plan


Interestingly, Judge Lisa Hart Cole held that Lee had nothing to do with the actual creation of his drum kit, despite being the one who plays it. And despite his years of bragging about creating it!

One of the odd aspects about this case if you have listened to the Crue at all in the last thirty years, is that the claim of misappropriation is based on a meeting that may have taken place in 1991 — and Tommy Lee has had varied tilting/revolving drum kits since at least 1987 during the Girls, Girls, Girls tour. What made the plaintiff take action was Lee’s most recent drum setup on a rollercoaster specifically. However, considering the varied drum setups over the years, it seems logical that if each time the band wanted the setup to be bigger and bigger, getting to the 360 degree rollercoaster was going to happen eventually.

But the most important lesson for those who work with bands — make sure that you have contracts that protect you from misappropriation of trade secrets, especially those you want to use or make money from in less than twenty-five years.

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