Business News Legal

Earth, Wind & Fire company sues over Legacy Reunion tribute shows

By | Published on Thursday 9 March 2023

Earth, Wind & Fire

A company owned by the sons of Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White has sued a US promoter that has been staging tribute shows to the band which, it’s alleged, incorrectly imply some kind of official status.

The lawsuit explains that, following White’s death in 2016, all the trademarks and other branding rights related to Earth, Wind & Fire were assigned to the plaintiff in this case, that being Earth, Wind & Fire IP LLC.

Regarding the subsequent management of those rights and the Earth, Wind & Fire brand, the lawsuit says: “Pursuant to a licence from plaintiff, the musical group Earth, Wind & Fire – including the three remaining original members who have been with the band since no later than 1972 – family members of founding members, and other side musicians, continue to tour the United States and other countries to wide acclaim”.

“Plaintiff and its predecessors also have licensed ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ to be used on authorised apparel and merchandise”, it adds. However, the company has been “selective in evaluating commercial proposals” it has received about other use of the band’s brand.

And, the lawsuit stresses, “it has not authorised any band except the real musical group Earth, Wind & Fire to use the name and mark ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ and other associated logos and images to promote the band’s live musical entertainment services”.

Which brings us to defendants Substantial Music Group. “Beginning in about 2019”, the lawsuit claims, “defendants hired a few musicians who previously had played with the real Earth, Wind & Fire as side musicians for brief periods up to three decades previously, along with other musicians who had never played with Earth, Wind & Fire, to perform songs that the real Earth, Wind & Fire made famous”.

Those shows were initially marketed as the ‘Earth, Wind & Fire Legacy Reunion’, with promotional materials allegedly using the actual Earth, Wind & Fire’s trademark protected logos. More recently the shows have been rebranded as the ‘Legacy Reunion Of Earth, Wind & Fire Alumni’, with new imagery being used.

However, Earth, Wind & Fire IP LLC argues, marketing copy is still misleading. Currently on its website, Substantial Music Group says of these shows: “The style and sounds of the greatest hit recordings by Earth, Wind & Fire were built by founder Maurice White and the contributions of a stellar collective of some of the best musicians in the world throughout the decades”

“Get swept up in the musical whirlwind”, it goes on, “and re-live the glory days under the Maurice White-led era of EWF as Legacy Reunion reunites former members of the EWF family to continue the tradition now spanning five decades”.

All of this, Earth, Wind & Fire IP LLC reckons, constitutes trademark infringement and dilution, unfair competition and false advertising. And they’d like a court order stopping all that conduct and some lovely damages.