Ed Sheeran has been hit with a copyright suit over his mega-hit Thinking Out Loud, with a songwriter's heirs saying he stole from Marvin Gaye's classic Let's Get It On.
The lawsuit comes amid a flurry of infringement suits in the music world, including a landmark verdict last year in favor of Gaye's heirs who sued over separate songs.
The latest case was filed not by Gaye's family but by the descendants of the late Ed Townsend, who wrote the steamy 1973 hit with the soul singer and held the copyright.
"The melodic, harmonic and rhythmic compositions of 'Thinking' are substantially and/or strikingly similar to the drum composition from 'Let's,"' said the lawsuit filed in a US federal court in New York.
The plaintiffs said that the British songwriter has ignored their warnings and explicitly referenced Let's Get It On in concert.
While the lawsuit did not specify further, a video on YouTube of a 2014 concert in Zurich shows Sheeran performing Thinking Out Loud on his guitar and transitioning to Let's Get It On.
Townsend's heirs sought a jury trial in which they hope to stop Sheeran from further performances of Thinking Out Loud as well as damages and profits from the song, with the amount to be determined in court.
It's the second lawsuit to rock Sheeran in recent months, with a June lawsuit claiming Sheeran's 2014 song Photograph was a "verbatim, note-for-note copying" of Amazing, a 2010 single by X Factor winner Matt Cardle written by Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard. Damages of US$20m were asked for.
The 25-year-old Sheeran has quickly become an international superstar through Thinking Out Loud, a ballad that has turned into a wedding favourite.
The song was the first to reach 500 million streams on Spotify and Sheeran's album X is one of the top-selling British albums so far this century.
Sheeran, who was sued personally along with his affiliated labels and publishers, did not immediately respond to the lawsuit.
A jury in Los Angeles last year awarded US$7 million to Gaye's family after agreeing that Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke's hit written with Pharrell Williams, copied from the soul icon's 1977 Got to Give It Up.
The verdict sent chills through the songwriter community, accustomed to courts dismissing frequent lawsuits that mention musical similarities.
More recently a Los Angeles jury cleared British rock greats Led Zeppelin of allegations that they stole the famous intro to Stairway to Heaven from the defunct band Spirit.