In a lawsuit that pits brother against brother, members of the legendary music group The Isley Brothers are headed to court over trademark rights for the band’s name.
The group, which was formed by brothers O’Kelly “Kelly” Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ronald Isley, have been performing since 1954, and continued recording into the 1980s. The group later expanded to include other brothers Ernie Isley and Marvin Isley, as well as Chris Jasper. The group has numerous hits and awards under its belt. Among their hits are such songs as “For the Love of You,” “Between the Sheets,” This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout.”
Off to Court
Rudolph Isley is saying that his brother Ronald has hijacked the group’s name for his own financial benefit, even though the group’s name is jointly owned.
Rudolph filed the lawsuit on March 20 in Chicago Federal Court. According to the suit, Rudolph says Ronald improperly attempted to secure a federal trademark registration on the name “The Isley Brothers” in November 2021 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Ronald was granted the exclusive rights to “The Isley Brothers” for use on “visual recordings and audiovisual recordings featuring music and animation” in August 2022, the lawsuit stated. Rudolph says Ronald should have gotten his approval beforehand.
Since the 1986 death of O’Kelly Isley, Rudolph says, Rudolph and Ronald have been the 50-50 co-owners of the group’s intellectual property, and that arrangement was formalized in two overlapping holding companies, Isley Brothers Royalty Venture I SPC Inc. and Isley Brothers L.L.C., TMZ reported.
Prior to the trademark approval, he and Ronald split all the profits made from the group’s name, including a multi-million dollar publishing deal, Billboard reported.
“Both plaintiff and defendant are currently 50 percent owners of all rights and interests of the group, with neither party having the authority to enter into deals concerning the group or the exploitation of the mark without consent of the other party,” according to the suit. Rudolph requests a judge to declare that the trademark rights to the name are “jointly owned by Plaintiff and Defendant equally.”
Ronald’s lawyers pushed back, claiming that the trademark “The Isley Brothers” would be the property of those who have been actively using a name. Rudolph, who reportedly is worth $2 million, has not performed with the band since 1986. Ronald, who reportedly has a net worth of $2 million, continues to perform as a solo artist and with the group.
“Rudolph has not used the mark in approximately thirty-six (36) years,” Ronald’s lawyer, Navarro W. Gray, wrote in a January letter to Rudolph’s lawyers. “Thus, Ronald’s profits from the business endeavors he has sought and created for himself, in relation to The Isley Brothers brand, are not to be shared as he has been the party actually using the mark in commerce.”
Battle of the Bands
The Isley Brothers aren’t the only group to fight over a name. The Commodores and the Platters are among the groups who have gone to court over trademark rights to the group’s name. Most recently, Morris Day was in a legal fight with the Prince estate over the trademark rights to the band he fronts, The Time. Prince conceived the group The Time, and as such the estate reportedly said Day cannot use the name.