A legal dispute has arisen within the legendary music group The Isley Brothers, pitting Ronald Isley against his older brother Rudolph Isley in a battle over the rights to the band’s name.
The lawsuit, filed by Rudolph Isley in March, alleges that Ronald Isley, known for hits like “Contagious,” has sought to secure the federal trademark for The Isley Brothers name, a move contested by Rudolph, who claims joint ownership.
Judge Thomas M. Durkin’s recent decision to deny the dismissal of Rudolph’s lawsuit signals that the case will proceed to trial, acknowledging the unique circumstances of the dispute.
The legal teams for both Ronald and Rudolph present differing perspectives. Ronald’s camp asserts that Rudolph forfeited his claim to the name upon leaving the band, while Rudolph maintains that he and Ronald are equal co-owners of the band’s intellectual property (IP) since the passing of their brother O’Kelly in 1986.
Rudolph Isley seeks a 50 percent stake in revenues generated under the alleged trademark, arguing that his continued involvement in managing licensing deals demonstrates his ongoing ownership rights.
Ronald Isley and Ernie Isley, who are the remaining members of the group following Rudolph’s departure to pursue a career as a minister, contend that only active participants in the band should have the right to ownership.
The Isley Brothers was established in 1954 by Rudolph, Ronald, and O’Kelly, functioning as a “common-law partnership.” This arrangement involved shared responsibilities, profits, and control over the band’s business operations.
However, when Rudolph left the band to follow a religious calling, Ronald and Ernie Isley emerged as the sole remaining members of the group. Notably, Ernie Isley is not named in the ongoing legal dispute.
Ronald Isley reportedly submitted a federal trademark application in November 2021, specifically related to “visual recordings and audiovisual recordings featuring music and animation.” This application was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on August 16, 2022.