Photo: Distributed by Columbia Records - Public Domain

Earth, Wind & Fire Win Trademark Lawsuit

In a trademark infringement lawsuit versus the company behind an Earth, Wind & Fire tribute act that promoted itself with “deceptive and misleading” marketing, the real Earth, Wind & Fire have prevailed.

The iconic rhythm and blues/pop act filed the lawsuit last year against Substantial Music Group and Stellar Communications, which oversaw the tribute band Earth, Wind & Fire Legacy Reunion. While cover acts have a bit of leeway in marketing themselves in relation to the act they’re honoring, they are cannot suggest any actual affiliation with the original band should none exists. 

In the lawsuit, the real Earth, Wind & Fire accused Earth, Wind & Fire Legacy Reunion of crossing that line and accused the Legacy Reunion of tricking loyal fans into believing that they were seeing the real EWF per marketing assets that improperly used copyrights, such as the band’s “Phoenix” logo, word mark, and photos of real EWF members. 

On Monday (3.04,) a federal judge in Florida stated that the Legacy Reunion’s advertisements “draw a close, unmistakable association with Earth, Wind & Fire to a degree unwarranted by the historical record.” Though the Legacy Reunion featured several former EWF members and sidemen, the ruling stated that there was not enough to make clear that the “main (or most prominently known) members” of the band were not involved. 

The original EWF lawsuit also included numerous social media complaints from fans after they unintentionally attended a Legacy Reunion show, believing that they’d paid to see the real band. In his ruling, Judge Federico A. Moreno cited these complaints when determining that Legacy Reunion had caused “actual confusion” among fans.

In May jury trial will follow Monday’s ruling to determine how much Substantial Music Group and Stellar Communications will have to pay Earth, Wind & Fire in damages.

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire’s lawyer, David Greenbaum said “My partner Mark Lee and I are pleased that the court agreed with our client’s position on trademark infringement and related claims, granting summary judgment. We await trial on damages.”

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Author: Saul Goode

Photo: Distributed by Columbia Records – Public Domain