E-40, 2016

Rapper E-40 performs onstage at the Power 106 Powerhouse show at Honda Center on June 3, 2016 in Anaheim, Calif.

Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic

A book series is fighting for its right to use the same title as the Bay Area rapper's 1994 hit song.

The publishers of a book called Captain Save a Hoe are countersuing rapper E-40 over their right to the title. 

The latest action follows a lawsuit filed in November by E-40, real name Earl Stevens, alleging copyright infringement and that the book is profiting off his hit song "Captain Save a Hoe," which hit No. 94 on the Hot 100 and No. 63 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts in 1994. 

As proof of his role defining the term, in the initial suit Stevens includes Urban Dictionary's top definition, which links the concept of "Captain Save a Hoe" to his song: "Derived from a 1993 rap song by rapper E-40 about the adventures of a Financial savior to underprivileged inner city hood rats... A gold digger's dream...A Man that will drop dimes on you (i.e. get your hair and nails done, take care of your childroes, pay your bills)...A man that des this is usually Captain Savin' 'Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's plane! Wus that foolz name, Captain Save a Hoe main."

The Captain Save a Hoe book by author Erika Kane was released Oct. 31, 2017, and follows a young man named Georgie Porgie, who leaves Philadelphia for New York "to pursue his dreams of being a famous hairdresser," according to its Amazon description, "while dealing with Porgie's "unending love of women and wanting to save them from themselves." There is already a sequel slated for release June 5, with an Amazon pre-order available. 

Stevens' filing goes on to state his trademark on the "Captain Save a Hoe" mark -- which was filed in 2014 but has not yet been approved -- includes clothing, specifying various articles of clothing, as well as entertainment services that are specified as "an ongoing series featuring comedy, action and adventure provided through television, online webcasts and radio broadcasts."

As well, the claim stated similarities with Stevens' copyright on the song, arguing the book incorporates "substantially" and "confusingly" similar proprietary elements from the song's composition, name and character. "Specifically, Defendants have wrongfully appropriated the proprietary CAPTAIN SAVE A HOE name and superhero character elements in violation of Plaintiff's rights in the Composition and character created and described therein," the suit alleges. "Defendants' book and character described therein is an infringing derivative work of Plaintiff's Composition including the structure, format, elements and even certain identical verbiage is copied."

In response, Vodka & Milk Publishing filed a counterclaim asserting essentially that Stevens had filed incomplete trademark requests and his rights do not cover the use of the "Captain Save a Hoe" mark in books. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the publisher's claim that the book series and E-40 have different enough customers that the book would not cause confusion or lead anyone to believe it came from the rapper. 

Vodka & Milk Publishing's attorney, Corey Boddie with Boddie & Associates, P.C., tells Billboard, "My client's consumer has absolutely nothing to do with [E-40's] consumers." Giving an example, Boddie compared it to someone coming out with a McDonald's perfume that uses a different mark than the famous golden arches and is just using the same last name. "They would have different consumers," he says. "So that's the defense that we have in this case."

The counterclaim also points out there have been other books written using the "Captain Save a Hoe" mark, about which Stevens has done nothing -- most specifically The Misadventures of Captain-Save-a-Hoe self-help book. 

As such, Vodka & Milk Publishing also asserts that Stevens has lost no revenue as a result of the Captain Save a Hoe book. Meanwhile, the publisher is seeking damages against Stevens caused by his alleged requests to Amazon to take down the book from its service, causing a breach of contract. Stevens' removal requests caused Amazon to remove the book from its website and other retail outlets to cancel orders and stop ordering the book, Vodka & Milk Publishing claims, causing the publisher irreparable injury, financial damage and loss of income to be proven at trial.

Stevens' attorney Michael P. Martin of Fischbach Perlstein Lieberman & Almond, LLP argues the counterclaim "lacks merit" and tells Billboard they plan to file a motion to dismiss. He argues his client's trademark does include books and with Stevens currently developing a series around the "Captain Save a Hoe" character, this novel would interfere with its potential for success. 

"The Defendants' decision to use E-40's well known character and song title without his authorization gave us no choice but to enforce his rights or risk losing them," Stevens' attorney Michael P. Martin of Fischbach Perlstein Lieberman & Almond, LLP tells Billboard. "In addition to his rights in the composition, song title and lyrics, E-40 holds senior trademark rights to the mark 'Captain Save a Hoe' for clothing as well as an entertainment series that he is developing. The series of books published by Defendant infringes upon these rights because books and entertainment series, regardless of the medium, are related properties."