Sony Music has reached a settlement to end a lawsuit that claimed the name of Future’s chart-topping album High Off Life infringed the trademark rights of a creative agency that uses that exact same name.
High Off Life LLC sued Sony in 2020, alleging the label had “destroyed” the smaller company’s brand by using the name for the title of Future’s eight studio album. Though Sony argued an album name was protected by the First Amendment, a federal judge refused to dismiss the case last year.
But in a motion filed Tuesday, both sides agreed to end the case. The terms of the settlement, like whether any money exchanged hands or any names would be changed, were not publicly disclosed. Attorneys for both sides did not return requests for comment.
High Off Life reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 in May 2020. It was originally set to be titled “Life Is Good” – the name of the album’s third single – but the name was switched at the last minute as the COVID-19 pandemic swept made life somewhat less than good.
That was a problem for High Off Life LLC, which filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in October 2020 against Sony and Future’s Freebandz Productions. The company claimed it had been selling “High Off Life” apparel since 2009, had launched a creative agency under the name in 2017, and operates a hip-hop YouTube channel called “High Off Life TV.”
The case claimed that Sony’s promotion of Future’s album had buried the smaller company in search results: “Overnight, Defendants destroyed HOL’s investment of many years and many thousands of dollars into building consumer recognition.”
To beat the lawsuit, Sony and Freebandz cited something called the Rogers test — a legal doctrine that makes it very difficult to win lawsuits over the use of brand names in “expressive works” music. The rule says that authors have a First Amendment right to use trademarks in their work unless it explicitly misleads consumers, or is completely irrelevant to the artwork.
That argument might have prevailed eventually, but U.S. District Judge Scott Hardy ruled in April that it was too early to make that call. The decision allowed the case to proceed into discovery, where both sides to gather evidence and build their cases.
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