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Taylor Swift’s Label Sues Over ‘Republic’ Trademark Confusion

Nov. 12, 2021, 8:21 PM

The record label behind artists Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Drake is suing a multiplatform investment company in New York federal court for allegedly infringing on its “Republic” trademarks.

OpenDeal Inc. launched “Republic” branded services that allow customers to invest in artists’ songs and earn returns for their royalties, causing confusion among industry professionals and others who mistakenly believe the two companies are associated, UMG Recordings Inc. alleged in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. UMG accused the investment company of copying its trademarks.

OpenDeal uses identical trademarks, promotes UMG’s artists, and targets the same consumers as UMG, according to the complaint.

UMG’s Republic label is home to several popular artists, and the “Republic” marks are used in connection with its music services, including on album covers. Swift famously joined the label with a deal that she would own all the rights to her masters.

UMG is alleging OpenDeal, which does business as Republic, of trying to create a false association between the two companies by using the “Republic” mark on services that record labels usually provide, including giving fans access to music, tickets, and merchandise, according to the complaint.

OpenDeal’s launch of its music services included a manifesto that said the company aims to cut out record labels and help artists avoid “unfair contracts,” mentioning Swift’s dispute with her former label. The reference is evidence of further possible confusion, because Swift is one of UMG’s artists.

There’s already confusion between the two companies, UMG alleged. Some articles have said that OpenDeal’s investment services are related to the Republic record label, according to the complaint.

Causes of action: Trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution

Relief: preliminary and permanent injunction, damages, attorneys’ fees

Response: OpenDeal didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment

Attorneys: Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu PC represent UMG.

The case is UMG Recordings Inc. v. OpenDeal Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 1:21-cv-09358, 11/12/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Samantha Handler in Washington at shandler@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com