Fox Wins ‘Empire’ Trademark Lawsuit

Record label had challenged the show’s title

Breathe easy, Cookie Lyon; the legal system has your back. At least in this case.

Twentieth Century Fox Television has prevailed in a lawsuit over its hit show “Empire,” with a judge ruling in its favor on Monday.

Fox had been in dispute with record label and music distributor Empire Distribution, which had sent Fox a cease and desist letter, claiming that its trademark was being infringed upon. In response, Fox filed a lawsuit against Empire Distribution, which filed its own counterclaim.

“Empire,” which premiered in January 2015 and is gearing up for a second season, revolves around a family in the entertainment industry. The series, starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, prominently features music and offers songs from in its episodes for sale. Fox also enters contracts with artists and producers in connection with the series.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson found that Fox has a First Amendment right to use the title “Empire” and that Empire Distribution was unable to make a case for consumer confusion between its company and the series.

“Fox contends that summary judgment is appropriate because its use of ‘Empire’ is protected by the First Amendment, and because Empire Distribution has failed to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to consumer confusion,” Monday’s civil minutes regarding the decision read. “As explained below, the Court finds that Fox’s use of ‘Empire’ is protected by the First Amendment, and therefore does not reach the issue of consumer confusion.”

According to court papers filed Monday, Empire Distribution uses the trademarks Empire, Empire Distribution, Empire Publishing and Empire Recordings. However, the civil minutes note, the application for the Empire mark was suspended in July, while the application for Empire Distribution was suspended in October.