A celebrity’s best earning years may come long after he or she passes away, as reported by Forbes in its annual Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list. The NY Times reported on one estate that’s trying to join the Forbes list in Protecting Brando Legacy, Trustees You Can’t Refuse.  In the excerpt below two points caught my eye: (i) the estate’s focus on intellectual property rights and (ii) the incredible amount of litigation Brando’s estate has been involved in (26 cases and counting!):

On Friday the Brando trustees — the movie producer Mike Medavoy, the accountant Larry Dressler and Brando’s former personal assistant Avra Douglas — filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against a group of companies that own and operate the Broadcast Center Apartments near CBS Television City, claiming infringement of Brando’s trademarked name.

It was one small step for those who have been trying to make a business out of Brando’s legacy ever since he died, at 80, in 2004.

The trustees are also expected to announce on Monday that they have begun operating as Brando Enterprises, a business partnership designed to protect and manage the Brando brand, and have hired a Los Angeles licensing agency, Brand Sense Partners, to help them.

If the coalition finds new value in what Brando left behind, it will be a welcome change for the heirs and trustees. Until now they have spent time and resources on an extraordinary tangle of litigation. A summary recently compiled by lawyers for the Brando trust showed that 26 separate legal cases had been opened since late 2003.

But the Brando legal team is now mostly on offense. “I’m the guy who makes them an offer they can’t refuse,” said Jeffrey I. Abrams, a lawyer who has been helping the estate hunt for trademark infringers.