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Fox Looks to Dodge $8 Million Demand Over ‘Empire’ Name

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Fox wants a declaration it can use the "Empire" title for its hit television series, after receiving an $8 million demand from a record label with the same name.

Fox filed the federal complaint for declaratory relief on Monday, alleging that San Francisco-based Empire Distribution had sent it a Feb. 26 letter accusing it of trademark infringement.

The letter also claimed that the musical drama's fictional rap mogul Lucious Lyon, played by Terence Howard, tarnishes the label's brand because "Empire" portrays him as a homophobe, murderer and drug dealer, according to the filing.

Fox says Empire Distribution gave it three options to settle the claims: pay $5 million and allow the label's artists to guest star in the series, pay $8 million, or stop using the "Empire" title.

"This action has been necessitated by defendant's meritless claims of trademark infringement and dilution, as well as unfair competition, and its attendant demands for millions of dollars," the 13-page lawsuit states.

Noting that Empire is a "common word in trademarks," Fox says it has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising the series.

"Empire" premiered on Jan. 7 and 16.7 million viewers watched the season one finale on March 18. The show's original soundtrack debuted at the number one spot on the billboard chart, Fox says.

"To date, each episode of 'Empire' has attracted more viewers than the prior episode - a feat that no other show in the last 23 years has accomplished," the lawsuit states.

Twentieth Century Fox Television, Twentieth Century Fox Film and Fox Broadcasting Company are all parties to the complaint.

They are represented by Marvin Putnam of O'Melveny & Myers.

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