The Isley Brothers in Trademark Dispute: legal battle for ownership of band name

Trademark disputes between family members are not uncommon, especially when there are multiple family members involved in a business or other venture. In some cases, family members may have disagreements over the ownership or use of a trademark, or they may have different ideas about how the trademark should be used. Recently, Rudolph Isley, one of the founding members of the Isley Brothers, has filed a lawsuit against his brother Ronald Isley over the use of the "Isley Brothers" trademark.


Igor Demcak

Details of the case

Rudolph Isley, a founding member of the iconic R&B group The Isley Brothers, filed a lawsuit in 2021 against his brother Ronald Isley, also a member of the group, alleging trademark infringement. According to the lawsuit, Ronald Isley has been using the name "The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley" without permission, which Rudolph claims infringes on his own trademark for "The Isley Brothers." 

According to the lawsuit, Rudolph Isley and his brother O'Kelly Isley Jr. formed the Isley Brothers in the 1950s. After O'Kelly's death in 1986, Rudolph and Ronald continued to perform together under the name "The Isley Brothers." Rudolph retired from music in 1989 to become a Christian minister, although last performed with his brothers during the 2004 BET Awards. However, in recent years, Rudolph claims that Ronald has been using the trademark without his permission and has even registered it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Rudolph claims that he has been using the trademark since the 1950s, and that Ronald's use of the name has caused confusion among fans and damaged Rudolph's reputation. Rudolph now wants a share of proceeds that Ronald has allegedly obtained since taking sole ownership of the group’s trademark. Documents read that Ronald was granted exclusive rights to “visual recordings and audiovisual recordings featuring music and animation.”

The Isley Brothers are a legendary R&B group that has been active since the 1950s. The group has had numerous hits over the years, including "Shout," "Twist and Shout," "It's Your Thing," and "That Lady." The group has undergone various lineup changes over the years, with Rudolph and Ronald Isley being two of the original members.

It is not uncommon for trademark disputes to arise between members of musical groups, particularly in cases where the group has been active for many years and has multiple members. The Isley Brothers have been involved in several trademark disputes over the years.

In 1984, brothers Ronald, Rudolph, and O'Kelly Isley got into a legal battle over the use of the band name. Ronald and Rudolph wanted to continue using the name "The Isley Brothers" without O'Kelly's involvement, but O'Kelly claimed that he owned a stake in the name and sued his brothers for trademark infringement. The case was settled out of court, with Ronald and Rudolph agreeing to pay O'Kelly a portion of their earnings from the use of the name.

In the late 1990s, Chris Jasper, a former member of the Isley Brothers, began using the name "Isley Jasper Isley" for his own musical group. Ronald Isley sued Jasper for trademark infringement, claiming that the use of the Isley name was confusing to consumers and damaging to the Isley Brothers' brand. The case was settled out of court, with Jasper agreeing to change his group's name to "Chris Jasper featuring Isley Brothers' Chris Jasper".

In 2001, the Isley Brothers sued Warner Bros. Records for copyright infringement, alleging that the label had used their music in a TV commercial without permission. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Igor Demcak
Igor Demcak

Trademark Attorney

Founder & CEO of Trama

7 year experience in IP protection

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