One Isley Brother is suing another Isley Brother over being The Isley Brothers

Rudolph Isley, one of the members of the legendary Isley Brothers, is suing his brother Ronald for filing a trademark registration for the Isley Brothers solely under his name.

In legal documents obtained by EW, Rudolph’s legal team is seeking a judicial declaration that states “The Isley Brothers” trademark is “jointly owned” by both him and Ronald “equally” and asks the judge to require Ronald to pay him his “share of all proceeds” earned from it.

Alongside their older brother O’Kelly Isley, Rudolph and Ronald formed the Isley Brothers in 1954. Throughout the years, Rudolph claimed that the band operated as an “equal partnership under the sole ownership, direction, and control of its founding members,” with the three brothers splitting all expenses, profits, and control of the business even as their lineup grew. Following the death of O’Kelly in 1986, the singer’s interests were passed onto Rudolph and Ronald, leaving them both “with a 50% share of ownership in the Group and the Mark,” according to the complaint.

Rudolph and Ronald Isley (brothers) during "Isley Meets Bacharach" Record Release Party and Concert at The Supper Club in New York, NY, United States.
Rudolph and Ronald Isley (brothers) during “Isley Meets Bacharach” Record Release Party and Concert at The Supper Club in New York, NY, United States.

RJ Capak/WireImage Rudolph and Ronald Isley

However, Rudolph alleges that Ronald “filed an application to register exclusive rights in the Mark in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in his own personal name” in November 2021 without Rudolph’s “knowledge or approval.” The suit claims that Ronald has “offered goods and services in commerce to the public” over the last year without his knowledge and “has failed to account to or make payment to [him] in connection with such exploitation of the Mark.”

“Rudolph is unaware of the degree to which Ronald exploited the Mark, the licenses and/or other transactions that Ronald entered into for the use of the Mark, or the revenue Ronald garnered through such exploitation,” the suit stated. As a result, Rudolph is asking that his brother “account for and pay over” his “rightful 50 percent share of all results and proceeds of the past exploitation of the Mark.”

In a January letter attached to the complaint, Ronald’s lawyer, Navarro Gray, countered by saying his client “did not set up a separate entity to receive Isley Brothers related revenue,” but rather “set up his own corporate entity to do business solely related to his own musical/entertainment career.” He added, “Ronald is only selling merch pertaining to Ronald Isley and Ernie Isley.”

“The owner of a trademark is the person who applies the mark to the services that they perform, and who is actually and actively using the mark in commerce during or near the time of registration,” it stated. “Our research shows that Rudolph Isley has not used the mark or been part of The Isley Brothers brand since 1986 and has not performed with The Isley Brothers since the death of their brother O’Kelly Isley.”

“Ronald has no problem jointly deciding and incorporating Rudolph in Isley Brothers business. However, it would be only for the years that Rudolph was a working member of the Isley Brother’s group,” it continued. “Rudolph retired in 1986, has had no involvement in any of the compositions/body of works done after he retired, and has not performed with The Isley Brothers since the death of O’Kelly Isley.”

In a statement to EW, Ronald said, “This is an unfortunate family matter that will get resolved in litigation.”

The Isley Brothers, known for their hits including “Shout” and “This Old Heart of Mine,” were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. They received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame last June.

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