Rapper-turned-entrepreneur Kanye West has taken legal action against the creators of Coinye West, a tongue-in-cheek digital currency that was supposed to launch this week.
West’s lawyers filed a cease-and-desist order against the team of coders who developed Coinye West, claiming trademark infringement.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the document was filed on 6th January and it is going after the coders because the design of the coin features a cartoon of West.
The documents explains:
“Given Mr West’s wide-ranging entrepreneurial accomplishments, consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Mr West is the source of your services.”
The currency was supposed to launch on Sunday, but instead of being intimidated by the cease-and-desist order, the coders have actually chosen to bring the launch forward.
The Coinye West team wrote on the redesigned homepage:
“Due to legal pressure, we will be launching today, January 7, at 7:00PM, Pacific Standard Time.”
As if that wasn’t enough, they redesigned the image which was cited in the complaint. The new design still features a cartoon of Kanye West, but it is a lot less flattering.
It depicts Kanye as a fish (South Park fans should get the joke). Ironically, Kanye was parodied in South Park for not getting a simple joke conceived by one of the show’s protagonists.
Taking legal action against a team of coders who clearly have a healthy sense of humour probably won’t help Kanye’s reputation in certain circles.
The original ‘Fishsticks’ episode of South Park aired in 2009 and even West said it was funny, although he admitted it hurt his feelings.
Matt Stone and Tray Parker chose to mock Kanye West again, just a few weeks ago. If they happen to be bitcoin fans, who knows, maybe they’ll do it again.
Kanye’s lawyers have a valid point – using celebrity photos and puns to promote a product is a questionable practice to say the least.
However, apart from having a good sense of humour, the developers obviously know a thing or two about trademark law. Certain parodies of trademarks are permissible, including artistic and editorial parodies that are protected by the First Amendment in the US.
Therefore their decision to redesign the coin and mock Kanye even further makes perfect sense. However, it is not a bulletproof legal argument, and courts have rejected so-called parody defence arguments in many instances.