Trademark Infringement

Earth Wind & Fire Legacy Band Sued for Trademark Infringement

An Earth, Wind & Fire “legacy” group has been named in a trademark infringement lawsuit brought by the official band, for using its name and trademarks to trick consumers into purchasing concert tickets to what many consumers believe is the real Earth, Wind & Fire.

Promoters Sued for Trademark Infringement

Promoters, which include Stellar Communications Inc., based in Indiana and Substantial Music Group LLC, based in Georgia, are also named as defendants in the infringement lawsuit that was filed by Earth, Wind & Fire IP, LLC.

The complaint states that the act comprises side musicians who once played with funk and soul pioneers Earth, Wind & Fire (and some members who never played with them at all) and that the promoters use the supergroup’s legendary name to mislead music fans into purchasing tickets to shows. This includes an upcoming gig in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, near Miami, where the federal lawsuit was filed.

What the Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Alleges

According to the complaint, since 2019, the promoters hired musicians who played briefly with the band up to three decades ago, plus other non-affiliated musicians, to perform the genuine band’s most famous music.

Dueling Earth, Wind & Fire Performances

The offshoot band, billed as Legacy Reunion: Earth, Wind & Fire Alumni, was set to appear at Fort Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse, with ticket prices from $100 to $371 from ticket reseller StubHub. The official Earth, Wind & Fire will be performing with Lionel Ritchie on August 25, at nearby FLA Live Arena in Sunrise. Those StubHub tickets were selling for $72 to $6,899 for floor seats near the stage. The lawsuit claims that the defendants are using the band’s name as a way to get bigger ticket prices, benefiting from the band’s commercial success and public goodwill.

History of Trademark Ownership

Founded by bandleader and drummer Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire combined many genres of music, such as soul, jazz, rock, pop, blues, gospel, disco, African music and folk, and was responsible for hit songs like “Let’s Groove” and “Shining Star.” In 2016, after White died, three surviving original members—White’s brother Verdine White, Ralph Johnson and Philip Bailey—continued to tour under license as Earth, Wind & Fire, with White’s sons now holding the rights to the band’s name and trademarks.

Battling Bands and Unhappy Fans

While the official Earth, Wind & Fire argues that using similar text, graphics and logo confuses fans, and allows minor side players and promoters to profit from their legendary status, the ‘legacy band,’ through their promoter, maintains that the lawsuit is a corporation using trademark law to decide which prior band members can be considered alumni and which cannot. Meanwhile, confused ticket buyers are unhappy, as some were tricked into buying tickets to what they thought was a show by original band members.

The lawsuit seeks damages and legal fees.

The Brunswick News – March 10, 2023 – Ron Hurtibise for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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