San Francisco, CA – March 24, 2015 – EMPIRE Distribution Inc., a well-known record label and music distribution company based in San Francisco, responded quickly to a press release about a federal lawsuit filed yesterday by Twentieth Century Fox Television regarding FOX’s Empire television show based on a hip hop record label.
One of the largest distributors of music in the country, specifically focusing on hip hop, rap, and R&B, EMPIRE has released numerous Billboard-charting records. They have partnered with notable artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Migos, Too $hort, and Snoop Dogg. Songs released by EMPIRE have earned platinum and gold records, and the label has sponsored sold-out showcases at events like last week’s South by Southwest .
EMPIRE founder and CEO Ghazi Shami explained, “FOX’s Empire television program has created significant confusion with EMPIRE’s products and services. Customers, artists and business partners have all expressed confusion to my employees, artists, and me as to whether the Empire program has any affiliation or business relationship with EMPIRE. It does not.”
Shami further explained, “Fox, through the Empire program, advertises, distributes, and streams music and sells downloads under the ‘Empire’ mark. 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,” said Shami. “This only makes the public confusion worse.”
“We are confident that this is a textbook trademark infringement case,” said Michael Hobbs, a partner with Troutman Sanders LLP, the law firm representing EMPIRE. “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.”
EMPIRE was founded in 2010 by Shami, a well-respected veteran of the urban music community, both in the Bay Area and nationally. With offices in the Financial District of San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta, EMPIRE has established itself as the leading music distribution company for urban music in the United States, releasing over 10,000 albums, 5,000 music videos and 100,000 songs.
Hobbs said the law firm reached out directly to FOX several times in an attempt to amicably resolve the matter, but was rebuffed.
“The only alternative with which we are left is to litigate, which we will do vigorously to protect our client’s valuable rights,” Hobbs said.