Fox Wins Right to Keep ‘Empire’ Series Title After Court Battle with Empire Distribution Inc.
A judge has ruled that Fox may continue to use Empire as the title of the hit television series. On Tuesday (Feb. 2), U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson ruled in Fox's favor in a dispute with hip-hop label Empire Distribution Inc.
Fox filed a lawsuit against Empire Distribution Inc. last March as they looked for "declaratory relief" that their use of Empire was not a trademark violation. Empire Distribution Inc. brought counterclaims to the table and sought an injunction so Fox could not use Empire in commercial exploits. Ultimately, the judge sided with Fox.
Empire Distribution, who has worked with artists like Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs, T.I. and Rich Homie Quan, felt that Fox's show had caused confusion in the market in regards to Empire Distribution's product. The company was founded in 2010, long before Empire ever hit the airwaves.
The judge made his ruling in favor of Fox using something known as the Rogers test, which refers to a ruling made when actress Ginger Rogers unsuccessfully sued over the 1986 film Ginger and Red. The first part of the test determines whether the name is relevant to the underlying artistic work. Judge Anderson ruled in favor of Fox on this part.
"The word 'Empire' is clearly relevant to Fox's work because the Empire Series tells the story of characters struggling for literal control over an entertainment company called 'Empire Enterprises,' and figurative control over the vast 'empire' that Lucious Lyon has built," Anderson wrote. "Additionally, the Empire Series is set in New York, the Empire State."
The second part of the Rogers test saw Judge Anderson rule that consumer confusion was irrelevant as Fox had not explicitly mislead consumers about any affiliation with Empire Distribution. It was major victory for Fox, who was represented by attorneys Daniel Petrocelli and Molly Lens according to The Hollywood Reporter.
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