Earth, Wind & Fire Reaches Settlement With ‘Deceptive’ Tribute Band Over Damages Owed

Earth, Wind & Fire has reached a settlement with a tribute act that used the R&B group’s name without permission, avoiding a looming trial over how much the unauthorized group would have to pay in damages.

The settlement, filed in court on Tuesday (May 14), came two months after a judge ruled that the tribute group had infringed Earth, Wind & Fire’s trademark rights by calling themselves “Earth, Wind & Fire Legacy Reunion” — a name the judge called “deceptive and misleading.”


Following that ruling, a trial had been scheduled for later this month over how much Legacy Reunion would be required to pay in damages. But in a joint filing this week, attorneys for both sides said those proceedings would no longer be necessary.

“The parties have reached a settlement in principle related to the damages issues that remain to be tried before the court in the referenced action,” the lawyers wrote. “The parties are in the process of preparing documents that reflect their agreement on the damages issues and that should fully dispose of the damages issues that remained unresolved in this action.”

The terms of the agreement, including how much Legacy Reunion will pay to Earth Wind & Fire, were not disclosed in court filings. Neither side immediately returned requests for comment.

Earth, Wind & Fire has continued to tour since founder Maurice White died in 2016, led by longtime members Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and White’s brother, Verdine White. The band operates under a license from an entity called Earth Wind & Fire IP, a holding company controlled by Maurice White’s sons that formally owns the rights to the name.

Last year, that company filed the current lawsuit, accusing Legacy Reunion of trying to trick consumers into thinking it was the real Earth, Wind & Fire. Though it called itself a “Reunion,” the lawsuit said the tribute band contained only a few “side musicians” who had briefly played with Earth, Wind & Fire many years ago.


“Defendants did this to benefit from the commercial magnetism and immense goodwill the public has for plaintiff’s ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ marks and logos, thereby misleading consumers and selling more tickets at higher prices,” the group’s lawyers wrote at the time.

Tribute acts — groups that exclusively cover the music of a particular band — are legally allowed to operate, and they often adopt names that allude to the original. But they must make clear that they are only a tribute band, and they can get into legal hot water if they make it appear that they are affiliated with or endorsed by the original.

Ruling on the case last month, Judge Federico A. Moreno said the evidence pointed “overwhelmingly” in the band’s favor. In particular, the judge cited angry social media posts and emails from fans who attended the “Reunion” shows because they thought it was the original band — proof of the kind of “actual confusion” that’s crucial evidence in a trademark lawsuit.

“It is not a far cry to think that an average consumer looking for an Earth, Wind & Fire concert would believe that they could acquire that experience from either plaintiff or defendants,” the judge wrote.

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