‘Empire’ Spawns Legal Brawl Over Show Name

Empire has been a mega hit for Fox, but it hasn’t been without it’s share of troubles. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news this morning that Fox filed a lawsuit against Empire Distribution Inc., a California record label.

Before you cry foul over the lawsuit, know that Fox isn’t the aggressor, and this is a preemptive lawsuit. According to The Hollywood Reporter, representatives of Empire Distribution Inc. went to Fox and attempted to assert rights on the title Empire. Empire Distribution was willing to let the rights go, for $5 million and an agreement to cast Empire Distribution Inc. artists on Empire.

It doesn’t stop there. According to Empire Distribution Inc., Empire is diluting the value of the record label because it centers on “a label run by a homophobic drug dealer prone to murdering his friends.”

TMZ reports that part of Fox’s argument against Empire Distribution Inc.’s claim is the fact that the record label is relatively obscure. Empire Distribution Inc. appears on page 11 of an “Empire” Google search, behind Empire Paintball, Juneau Empire, Empire BMX, and a host of articles about the hit television show. For as far down in the search returns as it is buried, Empire Distribution has worked with Sean Paul and Kendrick Lamar.

Empire Distribution does have an impressive 8,000 Twitter followers, but the Fox show Empire has a staggering 450, 000, and is likely to continue to grow. Curiously, Empire Distribution recently changed their official Twitter account from the more accurate, @EmpireDi, to simply, @Empire.

Marvin Putnam, Fox’s legal representative, says lawsuits like this aren’t unusual in the wake of the kind of massive success Empire has had.

“[People] 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.”

Just how successful is Empire? According to Deadline, the March 18 Season 1 finale of Empire was the highest rated freshman season finale in nearly a decade. In it’s first season, Empire brushed past The Big Bang Theory to become the No. 1 show on network television in the key 18-49 demographic.

The second season of Empire will air during the 2015-2016 television season.