Silly me! I didn’t even know there was a dispute. I figured the group’s members had just moved on to other things – family, other careers, etc.
But as I learned this afternoon, there has indeed been a long-standing dispute over who gets to claim ownership and thus exploit the group’s name – En Vogue.
In summary, thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, who got a hold of the official arbitration decision today:
– The members of En Vogue entered an agreement that created an En Vogue LLC in 2006.
– In 2009, the group (and so the LLC) hired Joe Mulvihill to be their manager, entitling him to a 10 percent commission.
– Soon after, one member, Dawn Robinson, left the group on her own accord. The remaining 3 then got into a squabble over management. On one side, Cindy Herron-Braggs and Terry Ellis were set on using the manager they already all initially agreed on, Joe Mulvihill. On the other, Maxine Jones wanted her own manager.
– Jones then hired her own manager, Julian Jackson, and requested that the group’s then current manager, Mulvihill be fired. However, the other existing members wouldn’t agree to that.
– So the other 2, Braggs and Ellis, replaced Jones, because she refused to agree to bookings of the entire group, which caused the group to lose out on gigs. And then Jones re-teamed with Robinson, who had already left the group before all this started.
– The problems really began when both groups of women – Herron-Braggs and Ellis on one hand, and Jones and Robinson on the other – started booking themselves separately, and appearing as En Vogue, essentially creating 2 different En Vogue groups. That eventually led to a demand for arbitration by one, or both sides, which was filed last July (2012).
And after 7 months of arbitration, Robert Nau, the arbitrator, reached a final decision this year, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, which states as follows:
“While the Agreement does not expressly state who owns the group name, I find that, by implication and inference, the Company owns all right, title and interest and to the trademark, tradename, service mark and stage name ‘En Vogue […] Claimants [Braggs and Ellis] both approved of the engagement and retention of Mulvihill as the manager of the group. Without the approval of at least one other member of the Company, Respondent [Jones] did not have the right on her own to overrule the decision of the Company to use Mulvihill as the manager of the group.”
Nau ruled that Maxine Jones breached the group’s (LLC’s) original agreement by using the name En Vogue after she split with the group and hired her own manager. Essentially, she didn’t have a right to the name.
And the damages Jones will have to pay the other members for this breach totals just over $15,000 – but it’s really only legal fees, court costs, and such, incurred by Herron-Braggs and Ellis. So, no *real* award damages.
It seemed like a relatively easy decision. Jones’ breach of the original agreement between the group I think is clear. So she has no rights to the name anymore. If she wants to use the name En Vogue, I guess she’ll have to get back together with the other 2 members – something that will depend on what their relationship is like after all this.
But you guys know what’s coming next, right? An En Vogue biopic!