R&B Group Blackstreet Sues Two Former Singers For Trademark and Copyright Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on December 6, 2011

mandour concert Orange County – R&B singers Teddy Riley and Chauncey Black doing business as Blackstreet Entertainment, Inc. have sued two former members and singers for hire, Mark Middleton and Eric Williams. The action, filed in a Virginia federal court, alleges that Middleton and Williams performed a series of concerts using a set of Blackstreet songs which they promoted under the name “Blackstreet” without the authorization of Blackstreet Entertainment. Blackstreet Entertainment further claims that customers were deceived and attended the concert expecting to see the original Blackstreet featuring Teddy Riley and Chauncey Black.

New York based singing group Blackstreet formed in 1991 by founding members Teddy Riley and Thomas Taliaferro. In 1996 they gained international attention with their number one hit, “No Diggity” and 1997’s “Don’t Leave Me.” Riley and Black have been the only consistent members of the group since its inception.

Now, current Blackstreet members Riley and Black allege that former group members infringed Blackstreet’s trademarks and copyrights when it promoted a European tour under the Blackstreet moniker. Blackstreet claims that Middleton and Williams not only used the Blackstreet name and a complete set of Blackstreet songs on the tour, but also used old group photos to promote and sell tickets. They allege that the entire set list consisted of karaoke style Blackstreet tracks and such use constituted copyright infringement.

Spokespeople for Blackstreet say that the Blackstreet name is still intact despite the group not having released an album since 2003. They claim Blackstreet still has a strong reputation for musical excellence and live performances. Riley and Black claim that they have owned the exclusive rights to the Blackstreet name since 1992 and have never authorized former members to use the name in order to promote a tour.

In order to prevail at trial, Blackstreet will need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Williams and Middleton’s use of the Blackstreet name, photos, and songs, created a likelihood of customer confusion. The Blackstreet civil action also includes a claim for copyright infringement.

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