Fort Lauderdale-based Radio Dogs Inc. claims it came up with the idea for the iHeartRadio Music Awards back in 1991.
The original show, called the Radio Music Awards, aired from 1999 to 2005 and were hosted by Ryan Seacrest on three networks and sponsored by Clear Channel Communications Inc. The ceremony was revived this year.
Radio Dogs, consisting of three South Florida radio veterans, filed the trademark infringement lawsuit April 29 in Fort Lauderdale federal court.
The litigation claims Clear Channel cut out Radio Dogs when it produced the iHeartRadio Awards on May 1 for a telecast on the NBC network. The show joins an already cluttered array of music awards vying to be an alternative to the Grammys, such as the Billboard Music Awards, American Music Awards and MTV Video Music Awards.
The Los Angeles Times, in reviewing the show, said: “But the big question heading into the inaugural iHeartRadio Music Awards on Thursday was simple yet crucial: Why?”
The three-hour live event opened to soft ratings among the key advertiser-coveted 18-49-year-old demographic and averaged 5.4 million viewers. The telecast featured performances by Shakira, Pharrell Williams, Blake Shelton, Kendrick Lamar and Miami native Pitbull.
NBC liked the show enough to renew it for 2015.
Attorney Richard Wolfe of Wolfe Law Miami, who represents Radio Dogs, said Clear Channel worked with his clients for years to develop the show and then cut them out of the production.
“They used the same sponsor, the same MC and same trademark,” Wolfe said. “It’s exactly the same format for what they did for seven years. The only thing that’s different is they added the words iHeart.”
The iHeartRadio brand refers to Clear Channel’s Internet radio presence. The brand also sponsors an annual music festival in Las Vegas.
The lawsuit assigned to U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn seeks to enjoin Clear Channel from using the old Radio Music Awards logo.
Von Freeman, Tony Eaton and Paul Malibu formed Radio Dogs, Wolfe said.