Steve Ross was the only son of Bob Ross, and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a painter. Bob Ross named Steven Ross as an heir to his intellectual property, but his son became embroiled in legal battles over the rights.
The battle over Bob Ross Inc. was largely unknown in the public sphere until Steve Ross filed a federal lawsuit in 2017, which made a series of other lawsuits public. Those involved claims made by Annette and Walt Kowalski, who were two of the four partners in the Bob Ross Inc. brand. The fourth partner was Bob Ross’ second wife, Jane Ross, who died in 1992.
Steve Ross, whose full name is Robert Steven Ross, had a prominent role in a new Netflix documentary that dug into the lawsuits laying a claim to the Bob Ross brand. The documentary, Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, was released on Netflix Wednesday, August 25, 2021. Bob Ross Inc. released a statement in response to the film, which began, “Bob Ross Inc. takes strong issue with the inaccurate and heavily slanted portrayal of our company” and made responses to specific accusations. You can read the full statement here. The documentary made the Netflix top 10 list in the days after its release.
Here’s what you need to know:
Steve Ross Fell Into a Deep Depression After the Death of His Father, & He Eventually Sued for the Rights to His Father’s Intellectual Property
After Bob Ross died, Steve Ross fell into a deep depression, gave up painting and contemplated suicide, according to the Daily Beast. Steve Ross was a professional painter, and initially tried to keep up his pursuit to make ends meet, the article said. But he gave it up altogether and lived as a “hermit” for 15 years, the article continued.
Shortly before Bob Ross’ death, the gentle painter known for “happy little trees” was presented with legal documents asking him to turn over the business, Bob Ross Inc., to Annette and Walt Kowalski, the Beast reported. Ross, who was suffering from lymphoma, refused the request. Instead, he made a series of changes to his will and said that his name, likeness and intellectual property go to Steve Ross and one of his half-brothers, the article said.
A judge, however, determined that Steve Ross did not hold the rights because, at the time the will was amended, the intellectual property in question belonged to Bob Ross Inc. and Bob Ross owned only one-third of the company, the Daily Beast reported.
“In the end, they struck the best deal possible under the circumstances,” the article said. “In exchange for a modest payment, Steve gave up his claims on Bob’s intellectual property. Most importantly for him, perhaps, Bob Ross, Inc., gave him the clearance to move forward with his business using his name and the right, under non-disclosure agreements, to show some terms of settlement to prospective business partners who might be fearful of a Bob Ross, Inc., lawsuit if they were to get into bed with Steve.”
Steve Ross Teaches a Painting Class Today With Business Partner Dana Jester & Shares the Joy of Painting
Although Bob Ross’ legacy was mired with legal battles, his talent and character lives on through his son, who holds painting workshops with his business partner, Dana Jester.
The Sterling Journal-Advocate noted Steve Ross makes “almost nothing” through TV, and like his father, earned his income through workshops and selling his art. The article, written about a workshop Jester and Ross held in Sterling, Colorado, portrayed Ross as possessing a gentle and encouraging demeanor much like that of his father.
“Anybody can do this, if you just follow along,” Ross was quoted as saying, pointing out a seascape completed by a student. “This guy had never painted before. This was his first effort.”
The Daily Beast reported that Steve Ross’ first workshop brought him new life in the realization that he was bringing the joy of painting to others.
“I didn’t realize that people missed me or wanted to have me do this again,” he told the Daily Beast. “I always knew, but what I mean is, maybe I didn’t want to know. Maybe I reserved the right to remain ignorant.”