Christian musicians sue rappers over name confusion

Newsboys also taking on Warner Bros. entities in $5M case

Longtime Christian pop rock band Newsboys apparently don't want their brand associated with “doing it Mercedes-Benz style.”

Newsboys owner and manager Wesley Campbell, a Franklin resident, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit last Friday against New Boyz, a hip hop-rap group on the Warner Bros. record label.

According to the lawsuit, customers of the evangelism-based Newsboys are getting them confused with New Boyz's vulgar material. The New Boyz song “Backseat,” which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard rap charts, is replete with sexual references, including the lyrics “You want a New Boy in you.”

The lawsuit points out that Warner Bros.’ promotional work for “Back Seat” includes the phrase, “Do it Mercedes-Benz style.”

“Plaintiff has already documented several instances of actual confusion among its customers, prospective customers and other outside observers who mistakenly assume a connection between Plaintiff and Defendant and the respective music they offer,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit — download it here — claims that New Boyz’s name is “deceptively similar” to Newsboys under the Trademark Act.

The Newsboys, a mainstay on Christian music charts since the 1980s, claim the New Boyz “knowingly and willfully” infringed upon their name. They allege state trademark infringement, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices and fraudulent misrepresentation.

The lawsuit asks for $5 million, all profits that the New Boyz “wrongfully derived by Defendants through its/their unlawful acts,” punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Nashville attorney Shawn Sirgo is representing Campbell and the Newsboys. Publicists for New Boyz hadn't returned an email for comment as of late Monday morning.

New Boyz members Earl “Ben J” Benjamin and Dominic “Legacy” Thomas — who also featured on the recent hit single “I Like It Like That” by Nashville-based Hot Chelle Rae — as well as Warner Music Inc. and Warner Bros. Records are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The Newsboys are currently on their “God's Not Dead” tour. They stop in Nashville at Cornerstone Church on Sept. 30.

New Boyz don't have any tour dates scheduled, according to their website. They went on an international tour earlier in the year.