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A Bitcoin dubbed “Coinye West” was scheduled to launch on January 11, 2014 as a digital Kanye West-themed currency. The creators never revealed their names, possibly because the project constituted trademark infringement, however, that has not stopped Mr. West and his team of lawyers from pursuing them in a Federal Manhattan Court.

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For those who are not aware, a Bitcoin is a form of “cryptocurrency” housed within a “decentralized financial system with its own invented currencies.” These Bitcoins purportedly appeal to the masses because they are a sort of peer-to-peer financial and trading system which cuts out the middle man, i.e. – financial institutions.

The lawsuit, which was filed last week in Manhattan Federal Court, seeks an unspecified amount for damaging the reputation of Mr. West, and also allows Kanye’s lawyers to do additional research to learn the identities of the creators of the digital currency. The specific claims made within the lawsuit are for trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution of right of publicity violations, deceptive acts and practices, and violation of anti-cybersquatting consumer protection act. The judge said there is a likelihood West will succeed with his claims though one of the websites named in the lawsuit sent a message after the lawsuit was filed saying “COINYE IS DEAD. You win, Kanye.”

What Does This Mean?:

The creators of this Bitcoin attempted to use Kanye West’s name and likeness in an effort to further the promotion, use, sell and trade of their goods and services, namely the Bitcoin dubbed “Coinye West,” without his permission. They can’t do that. The coin includes a “South Park-esque” visual of Kanye West in glasses, along with other designs which utilize his image and likeness. Their unlawful use is allegedly diminishing Kanye’s brand and right to privacy, along with purportedly breaking other laws as it relates to anti-cybersquatting. Kanye feels any association with this cryptocurrency is harming his name, reputation and business and wants it to stop. He and his lawyers are also seeking to stop future companies from seeking to do the same thing.

How Does This Affect You?:

In order to utilize a person’s name and/or likeness for the purpose of selling and advertising your goods and services, you need their permission and you also need to pay them. Everyone has a right as to how their name and image is perceived and used, especially by a third party. Nobody has a right to place your name and/ or face on any product without your consent for the sake of selling, advertising or promoting it.

Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem Fashion Row.

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