In December 2021, Sony Music fully acquired Ultra Records from Patrick Moxey. Now, Sony-owned Ultra Records is suing Moxey’s 18-year-old independent publishing company.
The lawsuit, obtained by MBW, was filed in the US by Ultra Records LLC (an entity fully owned by Sony Music) last month.
It centers around Moxey’s continued use of the ‘Ultra’ name for his independent publishing company, Ultra International Music Publishing, LLC, which was first incorporated in the US in August 2004.
The lawsuit claims that Sony Music entered into a licensing agreement with Moxey in 2012 that granted him permission to continue to use the ‘Ultra’ name in his independent pubco’s brand.
That year is relevant: In 2012, Sony Music acquired 50% of Ultra Records LLC from Moxey, after which he continued to run the label as its President and co-owner.
This picture changed in late 2021, however, when Moxey struck a deal for Sony Music to acquire the remaining 50% of Ultra Records. Moxey then left Ultra Records in January 2022, but continued to fully own Ultra International Music Publishing.
Two months after Moxey’s exit, says the lawsuit, in March 2022, Ultra Records (now fully-owned by Sony Music) “terminate[d] the license [for] the ULTRA trademark granted to Ultra International Music Publishing in 2012, which had no specified end date and was therefore terminable at will by Ultra Records under New York law”.
Since this point, Moxey has continued to use the Ultra branding for Ultra International Music Publishing, which remains fully owned by the entrepreneur.
In its lawsuit, filed November 11 in New York, Sony Music’s Ultra Records claims that subsequent to receiving a “substantial payment” as part of the Ultra Records sale in January, Moxey has “sought to perpetuate the falsehood that he remains involved with Ultra Records by wrongfully continuing to use Ultra Records’ ULTRA trademark as part of his music publishing business… Ultra International Music Publishing, LLC”.
The lawsuit, which you can read in full through here, continues: “Under the terms of… (the “December 2012 Agreement”)… Ultra International Music Publishing and its affiliates were only permitted to use the word “Ultra” under license from Ultra Records.”
The lawsuit acknowledges, however, that, “No written license agreement was ever executed between Ultra Records and Ultra International Music Publishing concerning the latter’s use of the ULTRA trademark.”
This lack of a written agreement is likely to be at the center of the legal dispute as time moves on.
The lawsuit claims that after Sony fully acquired Ultra Records LLC in December 2021, the label sent Patrick Moxey notice that the alleged license to use the ‘Ultra’ name for his publishing company would expire in March 2022.
The lawsuit continues: “[Moxey], through counsel, disputed the existence of the license memorialized in the December 2012 Agreement, denied that its continued use of the term ‘Ultra’ in connection with its music publishing business was violative of Ultra Records’ valuable trademark rights, and insisted that its use of that term with its business would continue.”
“Sony have done nothing but bully me from the day I sold them my record company… I have every right to use the name ‘Ultra’ in connection with Ultra International Music Publishing, and won’t be intimidated by a massive global corporation.”
In a statement issued to Music Business Worldwide in response to the lawsuit, Patrick Moxey stated: “Sony have done nothing but bully me from the day I sold them my record company. Ultra International Music Publishing has been an independent standalone business for over 20 years , which publishes songs co-written with Drake, Post Malone, Ed Sheeran, 21 Savage, Rihanna, Future, Kygo and many more.
“The vast majority of our songs are not on Ultra Records or Sony [Music]. I have made it abundantly clear on numerous occasions in media interviews that Ultra International Music Publishing is completely separate from Ultra Records, and always has been. I have every right to use the name “Ultra” in connection with Ultra International Music Publishing, and won’t be intimidated by a massive global corporation.”
(Two Moxey interviews with Music Business Worldwide this year – one published in January and one published in August – did indeed make it clear that Sony’s Ultra Records and Moxey’s publishing company were two separate entities.)
“[Moxey] is perpetuating the falsehood that he remains affiliated with his former company by continuing to use the Ultra name in connection with the publishing operations he controls.”
Sony Music statement
A statement from Sony Music issued to MBW reads: “Patrick Moxey sold Ultra Records and the Ultra brand to Sony Music Entertainment in exchange for a substantial buyout payment, and now is perpetuating the falsehood that he remains affiliated with his former company by continuing to use the Ultra name in connection with the publishing operations he controls.
“These actions knowingly misrepresent his involvement with Ultra and are in clear violation of the trademark rights SME acquired in a mutually agreed upon transaction.”
In addition to Ultra International Music Publishing, Patrick Moxey also owns and runs two independent record labels – Payday Records and the newly-created Helix Records.
In March this year, Ultra International Music Publishing entered into a global publishing administration agreement with Warner Chappell Music.
In the same month, both Payday and Helix announced a global distribution agreement with Warner Music Group / ADA.Music Business Worldwide