Fox is suing a San Francisco digital music distribution company because of its name.
Founded in 2010, EMPIRE Distribution releases digital music from urban artists including leading hip-hop stars Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Kendrick Lamar.
Fox's fictional Empire Records releases urban music including hip-hop and R&B, but in a real life twist, songs from the series are actually available for sale. Columbia Records released songs from each episode for the duration of the series and then dropped the "Original Soundtrack from Season 1 of Empire" compilation on March 10. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, beating Madonna's "Rebel Heart" album with 130,000 sales in the first week, reported Billboard.
“Fox, through the Empire program, advertises, distributes, and streams music and sells downloads under the ‘Empire’ mark," explained EMPIRE founder and CEO Ghazi Shami in a statement. "This music shares the same search terms as EMPIRE's music, the musical genres are identical, and the songs and albums are positioned in close proximity in online outlets such as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon.com, and Spotify. It isn’t just a fictional show; they are functioning as a record label in the real world. This only makes the public confusion worse.”
EMPIRE Distribution plans to respond to the lawsuit.
“We are confident that this is a textbook trademark infringement case,” said Michael Hobbs of Troutman Sanders LLP, the law firm representing EMPIRE, in a statement. “EMPIRE was started over five years before the first broadcast of the show, the marks are identical, and they sell the same products to the same customers. The significant number of incidents of actual public confusion is disturbing.
“The only alternative with which we are left is to litigate, which we will do vigorously to protect our client’s valuable rights," he said.