“Artists, labels, managers, agents and fans who are currently familiar with the plaintiff’s Republic label would be presented with two different companies offering identical services under identical names in the same industry,” the music giant’s lawyers wrote in the trial. “Confusion is inevitable.”
Officially named OpenDeal Inc., Republic is a crowdfunding platform that allows users to buy startups, cryptocurrency projects, and other investments. In October, the company announced that it would begin allowing users to invest in music royalties, claiming to be the first to “bring music investing to the masses.”
Using NFT (non-fungible token) technology, Republic’s new music service allows users to purchase a small stake in future royalty streams for a particular song or album. The first project saw rapper Lil Pump sell a portion of the proceeds from his single “Mona Lisa”, starring Soulja Boy and produced by Jimmy Duval.
Republic introduced such offers as a way for artists to “have more control over their art” by directly funding their own productions, and for fans to make money by investing in the success of their favorite musicians. It also announces that investors receive special benefits, such as access to tickets, derivatives and events.
Republic Records, meanwhile, was founded as an independent in 1995 and is today one of UMG’s main brands, home to Ariana Grande, Drake, Post Malone and many other major artists. Most notably, Taylor Swift signed with Republic when she made the jump to UMG in 2018.
In Friday’s lawsuit, UMG said Republic’s use of its name on a music-related service violates U.S. Trademark Law, which prohibits the use of a similar mark on goods and services that are overlap. UMG said that the use of such a prominent name in the music industry, on a platform that offers a lot of services “that record companies usually do,” was precisely an illegal overlap.
“Plaintiff’s label Republic Records has grown into one of the most successful and renowned labels in the world,” UMG lawyers wrote. “The plaintiff is bringing this action to end the defendant’s indiscriminate efforts to usurp the plaintiff’s name and trademarks for himself in connection with the new music-related services that the defendant has recently launched. “
Trademark rights are narrowly limited to certain types of commercial offerings, and the UMG lawsuit stressed that it does not object to Republic’s use of the name on its existing investment products, only on music related offers.
A spokeswoman for the Republic declared Billboard Monday (November 15) that the company “does not comment on the ongoing dispute and looks forward to working with UMG’s board to resolve the matter amicably”.
UMG is replaced in the trial by David Donahue, Jason D. Jones and Daniel M. Nuzzaci of the law firm Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu PC.