Rudolph Isley, a founding member of the legendary R&B group The Isley Brothers, passed away on Oct. 11 at 84. The Isley Brothers confirmed the news in a statement on social media, expressing their sorrow at the loss of their beloved brother.
Born on April 1, 1939, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Rudolph Isley commenced his musical journey singing in church with his brothers Ronald and O’Kelly. Together, they made a mark in the late 1950s with hits like the powerful gospel-inspired track “Shout.” Their success continued with classics like “Twist and Shout,” “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You),” “It’s Your Thing,” and “That Lady.”
O’Kelly Isley died in 1986.
In 1989, Rudolph Isley retired from the group, embracing a new path as a Christian minister. In 1992, The Isley Brothers, including Rudolph, were honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rudolph’s brother and bandmate Ronald Isley shared his feelings about the loss, stating, “There are no words to express my feelings and the love I have for my brother. Our family will miss him, but I know he’s in a better place.”
Legal Battle Between The Brothers
However, even in the wake of Rudolph Isley’s passing, a legal battle loomed over the trademark rights to the band’s name. Earlier this year, Rudolph had filed a lawsuit against Ronald over the trademark rights to the group’s name, arguing that the name was supposed to be jointly owned. Ronald had attempted to secure a federal trademark registration for “The Isley Brothers” independently, a move Rudolph contested.
In 2021, Ronald alone filed for a federal trademark of the name; it was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Rudolph, who at the time of his death was worth an estimated $2 million, was seeking to have a judge declare that the trademark rights to the name were equally and jointly owned by both brothers, and he wanted any revenue Ronald made from exploiting the trademark to be divided.
He claimed that since the death O’Kelly Isley, he and Ronald had been equal co-owners of the group’s intellectual property, as Finurah previously reported.
For his part, Ronald had argued that the case should be tossed out because Rudolph gave any control over the name when he retired from the band.
In the most recent ruling, U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin had refused to dismiss Rudolph Isley’s lawsuit, allowing the case to proceed toward trial. This legal battle over the band’s name underscores the complexities and disputes that often surround trademark rights, especially within musical groups.
There has been no word about what will happen with the lawsuit and if his estate will take up the legal fight after the passing of Rudolph.