Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Record label fights to trademark the term 'empire'

A real-life court battle involving the Fox Network's television show "Empire" adds to the show's fictional drama that has attracted many viewers in New Jersey and around the world. A record label known as Empire Distribution has challenged the network's use of the word "empire" and alleged trademark infringement.

According to a lawsuit filed by the network as it pursued declaratory relief from the challenge, the recording company claimed that the television show's depiction of a fictional rap mogul tarnished the company's image. The record label offered the network three ways to settle. Fox could pay $5 million and grant the label's singers guest appearances on the show, pay $8 million or cease calling the show "Empire" altogether.

The network argued that the First Amendment allowed the producers to use the word "empire," especially because the show is set in the Empire State. A US district judge has agreed with the First Amendment argument. The attorney for the record company continues to press the trademark infringement claim, citing the Lanham Act. Fox's attorney insisted that "empire" is an ordinary word in the English language and a trademark cannot impede people's ordinary use of it in expressive works. Both sides await a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

When someone needs to defend his or her intellectual property, an attorney familiar with trademark law may be able to help. A lawyer could respond to a challenge in court or file a lawsuit against an infringing party. An attorney also could organize his or her client's documentation of his or her established claim to the intellectual property along with estimates of the financial damages that resulted from the dispute.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Ninth Circuit Asked to Snub 'Empire' Trademark Claims", Matt Reynolds, Oct. 3, 2017

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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