Rapper and budding fashion designer Kanye West is on the verge of victory in his lawsuit against the founders of crypto-currency, Coinye. Last week, a clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York verified that the named defendants failed to file an answer, or enter any response, for that matter, to the trademark infringement complaint that Kanye West’s legal team filed in January.
The complaint alleged a total of 14 charges, including publicity rights violations, trademark dilution, and deceptive business practices, among others, and came on the heels of West's legal team sending a cease and desist letter to the Coinye West creators, claiming that “given Mr. West’s wide-ranging entrepreneurial accomplishments, consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Mr. West is the source of [the] services or is, at the very least, affiliated with, or has sponsored or endorsed the cryptocurrency.”
The Coinye team refused to cease and instead, launched the currency even earlier than they had planned and responded with a letter of their own saying that they had removed references that would confuse consumers (think: changing the name from Coinye West to just Coinye) and had replaced the logo with the image of “half-man-half-fish hybrid who is wearing sunglasses, again, totally separate from any resemblance to your client.”
As a result, West filed suit against “cowardly” defendants, David P. McEnery, Jr., Robbie E.C.A. Hontele, Harry Wills, Yifu Guo, Al Ra, Iain Craig (aka Jonny Bravo), Alex Cacciamani, Richard McCord, Patrick Austin, and Martin Gasner (the latter of whom told me: “My exchange does not have coinyie coin or how is it called in its list. So, I do not break any copyright or anything else”).
At least three of the defendants, all of whom hail from the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Slovakia or China, have settled with West, according to the World IP Review, and have been permanently enjoined from using the Coinye mark, or any derivation of the mark, on any website, blog or domain name, or operating a cryptocurrency bearing the name.
In the past month, defendant Robbie Hontele filed legal papers saying that he has “executed a confidential settlement agreement” with West. Another defendant, Richard McCord of California, said he has an “impending” deal in place. McCord denied being involved in the coin's creation, and according to McCord's lawyer, the Coinye situation is "unfortunate that a parody turned into such an expensive endeavor."
We are still waiting on Judge Analisa Torres to sign off on the default judgment to officially seal the deal. Unfortunately for West, other brands utilizing the Kanye-inspired name are still active including coinyecoin.org and coinyethecoin.com.