In a story not too far from its disputed source material, a small record label is suing media giant Fox over name infringement from the incredibly popular show “Empire.” The Season 1 finale brought in 16.7 million viewers, making it one of the largest on television in almost a decade. The similar sounding label Empire Distribution is looking for $8 million in damages, or $5 million if the Lee Daniels series would feature their artists like Kendrick Lamar and Sean Paul.
The label alleges their brand has suffered because the similarly titled show features "a label run by a homophobic drug dealer prone to murdering his friends." We can tell they haven’t been watching this season, otherwise they would have cited Cookie as a source of their problems.
As part of their counter suit, Fox lawyers have cited the label’s near obscurity as insufficient evidence for their claims, and questions the label’s motives as a cash grab on the show’s success. In its statement, Fox states that the indie label does not show up in a Google search until page 7, past other similarly named film and television properties. “Empire” is the fifth television show to broadcast with that name, after a 1962 Western series and a 1984 sitcom.
Fox also listed the small company’s failure to trademark their business name “Empire” and a still-undecided trademark on the label’s electronic music delivery system. A previous application for the name “Empire Distribution” was denied back in Jan. 2014 due to possible confusion.
Despite filing two lawsuits against the show, the first in February and earlier in March, Empire Distribution finally received their answer from Fox Broadcasting Company and Twentieth Century Fox Television yesterday. As Marvin S. Putnam, one of Fox's lawyers, phrased it in the publicly available complaint, “Fox has no intention of allowing anyone to leverage Empire’s success for their own unwarranted financial gain.” By suing the small company, Fox hopes to clear "a cloud over Fox’s intellectual property rights in the fictional television series ‘Empire’ and the soundtrack music."
Does this make Empire Distribution the Boo Boo Kitty in court?