Sony Music Sues Ultra Records’ Founder Over His Continued Use of the ‘Ultra’ Name
The major label says Patrick Moxey, who still uses the name for his publishing venture, signed away his rights to the trademark after selling Ultra Records to Sony earlier this year.
Nearly a year after Ultra Records founder Patrick Moxey sold his 50% share of the lauded dance imprint to Sony Music, the executive is being sued by the major label over his continued use of the “Ultra” trademark.
When Moxey sold his remaining stake in Ultra Records this past January, it marked a turning point in dance music history — giving Sony full control of the label it had previously held a 50% stake in. While Moxey parted ways with the imprint he founded in 1995, he held on to his other company, Ultra International Music Publishing, LLC. But in a complaint filed last month in New York, Sony Music argues he has no legal rights to use the “Ultra” name following the sale.
“Notwithstanding that Moxey received a substantial payment as part of the buyout, after which he ceased to have any involvement in the business of Ultra Records, he has sought to perpetuate the falsehood that he remains involved with Ultra Records by wrongfully continuing to use Ultra Records’ ULTRA trademark as part of his music publishing business,” reads the complaint, which was filed Nov. 11.
The complaint continues that under the terms of a 2012 agreement that marked Sony’s acquisition of 50% of Ultra Records, “Ultra International Music Publishing and its affiliates were only permitted to use the word ‘Ultra; under license from Ultra Records. That license was terminated by Ultra Records following the buyout, effective March 29, 2022.”
The complaint goes on to state that Ultra Publishing’s continued use of the name is in violation of the Ultra Records trademark, noting that “No written license agreement was ever executed between Ultra Records and Ultra International Music Publishing concerning the latter’s use of the ULTRA trademark.”
In a statement provided to Billboard, Sony Music states that “Patrick Moxey sold Ultra Records and the Ultra brand to Sony Music Entertainment in exchange for a substantial buyout payment, and now is perpetuating the falsehood that he remains affiliated with his former company by continuing to use the Ultra name in connection with the publishing operations he controls. These actions knowingly misrepresent his involvement with Ultra and are in clear violation of the trademark rights SME acquired in a mutually agreed upon transaction.”
In a statement to Billboard, Moxey counters, “It is well known in the music industry that I have built two successful independent companies during my career – Ultra Records and Ultra Publishing. Last year I sold my remaining shares in the highly profitable Ultra Records to Sony, but kept full control of Ultra Publishing. Working 20 hours a day over 20 years, I have established Ultra Publishing as a completely self-financed, 40,000 song catalogue, building it into a hip-hop, R&B, pop, reggae, dance and jazz music powerhouse.
“I’m therefore shocked and deeply upset,” Moxey continues, “that Sony would now try to lay an illegitimate claim to my life’s work, after I’ve done nothing but make them money. They already enjoy huge market advantages, and it is unforgivable that they would seek to intimidate independent music companies such as mine with baseless litigation instigated from a position of bullying and greed.”
After leaving Ultra Records, Moxey announced a new dance label venture, Helix Records, which has since released music from Snakehips, Willy William and Two Friends. The imprint is a division of Moxey’s longstanding hip-hop label, Payday Records. Both labels are distributed by Warner Recorded Music’s indie services arm ADA Worldwide.
UPDATE: This article was updated Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m. EST to include the statement from Patrick Moxey.