February 05, 2014

Through the (Money) Wire: The Coinye/Kanye West Trademark Litigation

by Guest Blogger

Here at Trademarkology, we want to protect people. Protect them from the wrath of Kanye West.

You may have heard about Mr. West's most recent target, the upstarts at Coinye West. They founded a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, by the same name. The naming decision was allegedly based on the Gold Digger artist's reputation as a trendsetter. It is unclear whether any consideration was given to potential trademark issues with this homage to Yeezus.

Shortly after the launch of Coinye West, Kanye's lawyers sent out a cease and desist letter alleging infringement of the mark KANYE WEST, unfair competition, cyberpiracy, and dilution. The Coinye West team responded with a cease and desist letter of their own. Their letter claimed that there was no likelihood of confusion between Kanye's trademark and the Coinye West brand. The letter also accused Kanye's team of harassment and using scare tactics. Nonetheless, the letter noted that all references to and images of Mr. West had been removed from the Coinye West website. But the Coinye team refused to go quietly. Kanye's image was replaced with the image of a half-man-half-fish hybrid, a clear nod to South Park's famous portrayal of 'Ye.


Kanye was not amused. His attorneys quickly filed a lengthy complaint in the Southern District of New York, alleging trademark infringement and seeking to enjoin use of the name "Coinye West," among other things.

Hoping for "Mercy," the original creators of Coinye West closed down all official services and posted on their website "COINYE IS DEAD. You win, Kanye." Despite the apparent decision of the original creators to abandon the project, members of the Coinye community are continuing to buy and sell the cryptocurrency. Others are rising to the mantle in an effort to continue the Coinye name. Stay tuned.

Of course, the Coinye folks could have avoided this headache by following Bill's advice and doing some due diligence before choosing their brand name. A simple trademark search would have revealed that Kanye has numerous federal registrations for KANYE WEST. With that knowledge, the Coinye creators may have thought twice before moving forward with the name.

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Begin the process of protecting your brand name with a federally registered trademark.