Fox is pulling out the big guns when it comes to protecting their mega-hit series Empire. In response to a demand from a California record label called Empire Distribution, Inc. that it pay $5 million and cast several of its artists in the series, Fox has filed a preemptive lawsuit to protect the trademark of the show's title.
The corporation is not only asserting the rights to the name Empire, the Hollywood Reporter details, but also claims trademark dilution by tarnishment via a series that features "a label run by a homophobic drug dealer prone to murdering his friends."
MUSIC STARS AND LAWSUITS
Empire, created by Lee Daniels and starring Terrence Howard as music mogul Luscious Lyon, is the crown jewel in Fox's primetime lineup, is a massive success in ratings, attracting 16.7 million viewers for the season finale last week. The show has also spawned a soundtrack album that debuted on top of the Billboard 200 chart.
Empire Distribution, which appears to have released early work from Kendrick Lamar, N.O.R.E., and Sean Paul before those and other artists moved on to bigger labels, never applied for federal trademark registration before the series became a hit, lawyers for Fox argue.
After an initial attempt to simply get Fox to fork over $8 million for use of the name, Empire Distribution sent a second letter of demands on March 6.
"This letter, again authored by outside counsel, reiterated defendant’s trademark claims, asserted a new claim for unfair competition, and gave Fox three 'options' to settle the claims made against it," states the complaint. "(1) Fox could pay $5 million and include artists that defendant represents as 'regular guest stars' on the fictional television seriesEmpire; (2) Fox could pay defendant $8 million; or (3) Fox could stop using the word 'Empire.'”
Fox, obviously, is refusing to settle and will instead drag Empire Distribution to court. “Unfortunately, success today can often make creators a target for a myriad of baseless legal claims,” says the network's counsel. “They hope you will just pay a little something from that success to make them go away. As underscored by today’s complaint, Fox has no intention of allowing anyone to leverage Empire’s success for their own unwarranted financial gain.”
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(Photo: Chuck Hodes/Fox)