Photo: John Mathew Smith & from Laurel Maryland, USA

Isley Brothers Battle In Trademark Lawsuit

One of the founding members of the Isley Brothers, Rudolph Isley is suing his brother and former bandmate, Ronald, for allegedly trying to secure the trademark for “The Isley Brothers” exclusively under his name.

Filed Monday (3.20), and obtained by Rolling Stone, the lawsuit is seeking a judicial declaration that “The Isley Brothers” mark is “jointly owned” by both brothers. Additionally, Rudolph claimed that he was “unaware of the degree to which Ronald exploited the Mark” and has asked the judge to order Ronald to “account for and pay” the 50% share Rudolph says he’s owed for any proceeds derived from the trademark. 

In 1954, Rudolph and Ronald co-founded the Isley Brothers with their late brother, O’Kelly. Rudolph’s suit claims that “at all times” the band operated as a “common-law partnership,” sharing expenses, profits, and control of the band’s business. Even as the group’s lineup grew and expanded, the lawsuit claims, the band “remained an equal partnership under the sole ownership, direction and control of its founding members.”

Following O’Kelly’s passing in 1986, Rudolph says he and Ronald were left with a 50% share of ownership in the band and “The Isley Brothers Trademark.” and while Rudolph stepped back from the band in 1989, he “remained active in promoting and managing the Group’s properties,” including a 2018 publishing deal and a recent licensing deal involving the use of “Shout” in a 2022 Super Bowl commercial. The lawsuit claims that both brothers are still equal owners “of all rights and interests of the Group” and neither party has “the authority to enter into deals… without the consent of the other.”

Rudolph, on the other hand, claims that on 11.02.21, Ronald struck out on his own and “filed an application to register exclusive rights” to “The Isley Brothers” mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for goods and services related to “visual recordings and audiovisual recordings featuring music and animation.” The Trademark Office approved the application on 8.16.22. 

Rudolph’s suit alleges that, on the trademark application and registration, Ronald “claims sole exclusive rights in and to the Mark in his individual capacity.” The suit says Ronald’s attorney also claimed this in a letter to Rudolph’s counsel. “These assertions in correspondence to [Rudolph], and under penalty of perjury to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, are false,” Rudolph’s suit reads. 

Included in Rudolph’s filing is a copy of the aforementioned letter Ronald’s attorney, Navarro Gray, sent Rudolph’s counsel. In the letter, Gray insists that Ronald “did not set up a separate entity to receive Isley Brothers related revenue,” but rather “his own corporate entity to do business solely related to his own musical/entertainment career.”  The letter also asserts that Ronald has more claim to “The Isley Brothers” mark because he’s the one who is “actually and actively using the mark in commerce during or near the time of registration.” The letter goes on to state, “Our research shows that Rudolph Isley has not used the mark or been part of The Isley Brothers brand since 1986 and not performed with The Isley Brothers since the death of their brother Okelly [sic] Isley.”  

At press time the attorneys for both Isley Brothers did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.

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Author: Saul Goode

Photo: John Mathew Smith & from Laurel Maryland, USA