The copyright infringement lawsuit was filed this week in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Newark.
Songwriter Anthony Stokes said he approached Legend after a concert at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where Stokes was a student and handed Legend a demo tape, which included Stokes' original, copyrighted composition, "Where Are You Now."
Stokes contends in court documents filed by the law firm of Marks & Klein that he asked Legend to listen to the tape and the performer agreed, but never contacted him after their initial meeting, the law firm said in a news release.
The lawsuit contends "Maxine's Interlude," which was released as a track on Legend's 2006 "Once Again" album, bears a striking resemblance to Stokes' song and misappropriates significant elements -- both lyrically and musically -- of "Where Are You Now."
"We are confident that we can prove the two required elements of copyright infringement: first, that Mr. Legend had access to Mr. Stokes' copyrighted work, and, second, that substantial musical and lyrical similarities exist between the two compositions required to prove a claim for infringement under the Copyright Act," Louis D. Tambaro of the Red Bank, N.J.-based Marks & Klein law firm said in a statement Thursday. "We have reached out to Sony and Mr. Legend's representation directly several times in order to attempt to amicably resolve this matter; however, our good faith efforts have been rebuffed. The only alternative with which we are left is to litigate. My client had the foresight to properly register his copyright, which entitles him to an award of statutory damages and attorneys' fees, if successful."
Legend has not publicly commented on the lawsuit.