Republic Records sues 'Republic' investment platform over trademarks

2 minute read

The logo of Universal Music Group (UMG) is seen at a building in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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  • Platform's music investment feature allegedly infringes
  • Label says parties failed to settle last month
  • Label says it doesn't object to platform's other uses of name

(Reuters) - Universal Music Group's Republic Records sued online investment platform Republic in Manhattan federal court on Friday, accusing the platform of infringing its trademarks with its service for music-related investments.

Universal Music Group (UMG) said the platform will cause consumer confusion with the Republic Records label, whose artists include Taylor Swift, Drake, Stevie Wonder and other popular musicians. It asked for a court order blocking Republic from using its name for music-related services.

UMG said the parties had discussed a settlement throughout October, but Republic dropped out of the talks and launched the service Nov. 4.

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New York-based Republic didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did UMG or its attorney David Donahue of Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu.

Republic was founded in 2016 and offers investing opportunities in fields including real estate, cryptocurrency, video games and startups. Its advisers include businesswoman Randi Zuckerberg and venture capitalist Tim Draper.

According to the complaint, Republic's music-investment service allows users to buy non-fungible tokens (NFT) in unreleased songs and receive royalties and "exclusive perks" such as concert tickets and merchandise when the songs are streamed.

"In other words, Defendant's Republic Marks are used in connection with the full suite of goods and services that record labels typically offer," UMG said.

The complaint said UMG and Republic Records are also planning to expand into NFTs.

According to UMG, the platform has already caused confusion among music-industry professionals and others who mistakenly thought the two were affiliated.

UMG said it doesn't object to Republic's use of the name for other investment services "as long as they do not overlap with the music industry."

The case is UMG Recordings Inc v. OpenDeal Inc d/b/a Republic, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 1:21-cv-09358.

For UMG: David Donahue of Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com