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Universal Music Wants Judge to Shut Down ‘Republic’ Music Investment Platform

UMG says even "sophisticated professionals and trade industry publications" have mixed up the identical names.

Universal Music Group, the owner of Republic Records, is seeking an immediate court order that would force an investment platform called Republic to stop offering music royalty streams, warning that many consumers have already confused the two.

Two months after suing the company for trademark infringement, UMG asked a judge Monday for a so-called preliminary injunction requiring Republic to cease any use of its name on the new music-focused service while the case is pending.

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UMG argued that many people have already been confused about whether there’s a link between Republic Records and a music investment service with the same name – an important element to proving trademark infringement.

“In the short time since defendant began using defendant’s Republic marks in connection with its new music-related services, there have already been numerous instances of actual confusion,” UMG’s lawyers wrote, saying that even “sophisticated professionals and trade industry publications” had mixed up the two services.

UMG also took a shot at the quality of investment platform, citing alleged technical issues and saying it didn’t want to be associated with such an offering.

“[Republic’s] launch was riddled with complications and poorly-explained instructions resulting in consumer complaints,” UMG wrote. “Website shutdowns also plagued defendant’s launch.”

Formally named OpenDeal Inc., Republic is a crowdfunding platform that lets users buy into startups, cryptocurrency projects and other investments. In October, the company announced it would start allowing users to invest in music royalties, calling itself the first to “bring music investing to the masses.”

Using NFT (non-fungible token) technology, Republic’s new music service aimed to allow users to buy a small stake in future royalty streams from a particular song or album. The only such project so far saw rapper Lil Pump sell a portion of the earnings from his single “Mona Lisa,” featuring Soulja Boy and produced by Jimmy Duval.

Republic Records, meanwhile, was founded as an independent in 1995 and today operates as one of UMG’s top imprints, home to Ariana Grande, Drake, Post Malone and many other major artists. Most notably, Taylor Swift signed to Republic when she made the jump to UMG in 2018.

Citing that name, UMG sued for trademark infringement in November. The label said it had no issue with the crowdfunder’s broader use of “Republic,” but that the expansion into music royalties – accompanied by talk of allowing investors to cut out record labels – had crossed the line.

“The artists, labels, managers, agents, and fans who currently know of plaintiff’s Republic label would be presented with two different companies offering identical services under identical names in the same industry,” attorneys for the music giant wrote in the lawsuit. “Confusion is inevitable.”

The defendants will have a chance to respond to Monday’s request before the judge decides whether to issue the preliminary injunction. A spokeswoman for the Republic investment platform did not return a request for comment on the new filing.