Since I’m a massive contemporary hip-hop fan (okay, not really), I felt compelled to comment on the entertaining “Coinye” controversy that recently bubbled over. For those of you not in the know, “Coinye” was apparently intended to be a virtual currency in the same vein as BitCoin.
The lawsuit was brought in Federal Court in the Southern District of New York. Kanye has asserted a variety of claims, but the thrust of the lawsuit appears to be that “Consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Mr. West is the source of these digital coins.” (A copy of the Complaint is here). For all the people interested in actual complaints, I would highly recommend this complaint for reading as it is, at 124 pages, a thorough and detailed accounting of the wrongs about which Kanye complains.
Candidly, while the Complaint contains substantial examples of tweets evidencing an apparent confusion as to Kanye’s affiliation with Coinye, I have a tough time seeing it, particularly given the market overlap, or the lack thereof, between Kanye fans and potential Coinye users. Further, the picture shown above on Coinye appears relatively unflattering and seems more satirical than intending to denote a connection between the Kanye and Coinye. In fact, because it shows a picture of a fish, I think the image could very well be a nod to the South Park episode, “Fishsticks,” which blistered Kanye. Would the consuming public really think Kanye West had sponsored or was affiliated with a currency that shows him looking like a goofy drunk fish?
I also find it interesting that Kanye asserted a trademark dilution claim. For those of you unfamiliar with dilution claims, they are limited to so-called “famous” marks. Examples commonly given for the “famous” distinction are Nike, Microsoft, Kodak, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi. While Kanye has undoubtedly become a successful hip-hop artist and has parlayed that success into some additional markets, such as clothing, I believe it takes a truly massive ego to essentially allege in a federal lawsuit that your name has acquired the same level of fame as the above-noted worldwide brands. (Disclaimer: My statement regarding Kanye’s ego is purely my opinion and not an assertion of fact. Please don’t sue me, Kanye).
Ultimately, I would expect Kanye to succeed on at least one of his claims and I expect he will be successful in getting the “Coinye” name enjoined. However, I selfishly hope this lawsuit lasts a while; I think it could lead to some truly entertaining moments.