'Empire' Legal Dogfight Over Show Name

3/24/2015 8:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

0323-empire-fox-02FOX claims there's nothing special about the word "Empire," and the network has now filed a lawsuit trying to torpedo a demand by a record label laying claim to the name. 

The label is called Empire Distribution -- they do distribution and publishing as well with big artists like Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Too Short, N.O.R.E. and Sean Paul. The label claims FOX has no right to use the name Empire because the show tarnishes its brand.  

Empire Distribution has claimed it's being hurt because the fictitious label on the show is run by a "homophobic drug dealer prone to murdering his friends."

Empire Distribution is willing to live with the taint, but only if Fox pays $8 million ... $5 million if the show uses Empire Distribution's artists as regulars.

But now FOX has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to declare Empire Distribution's demand bogus. In the new world order, Fox notes that Empire Distribution is relatively obscure, showing up on the 7th page in a Google search.

FOX wants the dispute put to bed STAT, before season 2 kicks off.