Tech N9ne, a Kansas City artist, helped found music label Strange Music. Strange Music is suing California record label Strainge Entertainment for trademark infringement. File
Tech N9ne, a Kansas City artist, helped found music label Strange Music. Strange Music is suing California record label Strainge Entertainment for trademark infringement. File

Local

Strange vs. Strainge: Tech N9ne lawsuit aims to end confusion

By Steve Vockrodt

svockrodt@kcstar.com

October 06, 2017 2:50 PM

Strange Music, the Lee’s Summit record label co-founded by well-known Kansas City rap artist Tech N9ne in 1999, is taking a newly formed record label in California to court over claims of trademark infringement.

On Oct. 3 Strange Music filed suit against Strainge Entertainment LLC — yes, that’s how it’s spelled — in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The suit claimed that the new competitor is confusing rap and hip-hop consumers with similar trademarks.

“The fact is, we have evidence that people are actually being confused as to the source and origin of music and the association of artists,” said Trent Webb, a partner at Shook Hardy & Bacon who is representing Strange Music in the lawsuit.

Strainge Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment.

Strainge Entertainment was formed in 2016 by 22-year-old Elliot Grainge, according to the lawsuit. Grainge is the son of Universal Music Group chairman and chief executive Lucian Grainge, who is in industry publications like Billboard Magazine as among the most powerful people in the music business.

The lawsuit claims that Caroline Records and Music, which is affiliate with Universal Music Group, tried over the years to get Strange Music to join the label, which Strange Music has rebuffed.

Strange Music’s lawsuit points to several examples in social media users associate Strainge Entertainment artists — Trippie Redd, Reo Cragun and Third World Don — with Strange Music. A YouTube channel for Strainge Entertainment is called “Strainge Music.”

“As consumers are deceived or confused by Strainge Entertainment’s use of the (Strainge trademarks), Strange Music will likely see loss in sales and erosion of its market share,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, which seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against Strainge Entertainment’s continued use of the trademarks, does not seek a specific dollar figure for damages.

Strange Music was formed in 1999 by Tech N9ne, whose real name is Aaron Dontez Yates, and Travis O’Guin. Tech N9ne had been active in the local music since since 1991, joining acts including Black Mafia and Nnutthowze. O’Guin discovered Tech N9ne and came to believe he had been signed to poor record label deals in the 1990s and joined with the emerging artist to start Strange Music.

Since then, Strange Music has generated $20 million in annual record and merchandise sales and has released more than 60 albums, according to its lawsuit against Strainge Entertainment.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt

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