Twentieth Century Fox Television filed the lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles seeking a judge's order that the network can continue to use the title "Empire" for its series starring Oscar nominee Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.
The lawsuit states the San Francisco-based record label Empire Distribution Inc., has sent letters demanding as much as $8 million from Fox. Empire Distribution claims the show's title is creating confusion with its artists and the network should either pay or change the show's title.
"It isn't just a fictional show," Empire Distribution CEO Ghazi Shami wrote in a statement released Tuesday. "They are functioning as a record label in the real world."
The lawsuit states Empire Distribution has a pending trademark application for use of the word, but that an initial filing was rejected. The trademark application was filed after the showed premiered in January, the lawsuit states.
"Empire" has become a hit for Fox, with its ratings rising each week and nearly 17 million viewers tuning in for the show's recent Season One finale. The show is about drama within a music and entertainment company run by Howard's fictional character, Lucious Lyon.
Music from the show has also been turned into chart-topping album.
The violent tendencies and homophobia of Lyon's character threaten to tarnish Empire Distribution's business, Empire Distribution's attorney Michael Hobbs Jr., wrote in a Feb. 16 letter.
Empire Distribution's "conduct threatens to place a cloud over Fox's intellectual property rights in the fictional television series 'Empire' and the Soundtrack Music," Fox's lawsuit states.
"We are confident that this is a textbook trademark infringement case," Hobbs wrote in a statement Tuesday.
The lawsuit was first reported on Tuesday by The Hollywood Reporter.