In January, Kanye West filed suit against the unnamed creators of the cryptocurrency “Coinye West,” as well as Amazon and other web-hosting service providers, alleging that it was a violation of his various trademarks and his publicity rights. In the wake of the lawsuit, the seven individuals behind the digital currency, who took extensive measures to prevent the disclosure of their names or locations, released information about their venture via the Coinye website, saying they “receive about 500 hits to their website every minute, and a few hundred emails an hour, and more newsletter subscriptions.”
The defendants also had some interesting responses to the Kanye West legal team’s action. For instance, they responded to West’s cease and desist letter by launching the Coinye currency early. And to the complaint, they responded with a bunch of humorous legal-themed memes.
At the time of filing, West and his legal team were unsure of the identities of the seven coders behind Coinye, but have since amended their complaint with the names and email addresses of those who are allegedly responsible for creating the Kanye-inspired currency. According to West’s complaint, the “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 (who 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.”), come from the U.S., New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Slovakia and China. The amended complaint is also missing some defendants; apparently West is no longer targeting Amazon.com.
So, here’s what we found out about some of the alleged creators of Coinye, most of whom did not want to comment on the pending litigation or their involvement in the creation of Coinye:
Yifu Guo is a New York City-based software programmer. According to a 2013 Businessweek piece, entitled, “Meet the Bitcoin Millionaires”, Guo was a digital media student at New York University when he began mining some of the first coins, occasionally cashing in a few to help pay his rent. After he recognized Bitcoin’s potential, he quit school and founded a company called Avalon, which sells hardware built solely for the purpose of mining Bitcoins.
Iain Craig is based in the UK and is the creator of Coinyecasino.com. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Craig is said to have emailed the plaintiff’s attorneys that ‘no further actions will be taken until a personal video on behalf of Kanye West is published in which he kindly asks us to remove the roulette wheel based on his geopolitical, religious or any other possible insults, personality damages or any sort or inconveniences this roulette wheel has provided.’ Craig also allegedly offered the lawyers ‘some house credit for free roulette spins.'”
Dave McEnery is a freelance web designer from Breckenridge, Colorado. According to his LinkedIn page, McEnery is “Hard working, motivated, and an eye for good design. I’ve worked in the IT field for years, designed websites in the early 2000s, and I’m getting back into it now.”
Patrick Austin, who is based in Kent, UK, operates a digital currency exchange, called Crypto Rush.
Harry Wills is a student at the University of Bristol, who resides in Bath, UK.
Richard McCord is an individual based in Ojai, California.
Robbie E.C.A. Hontele lives in Zoetermeer, Netherlands and is currently a student at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, where he studies Information Security Management and is slated to graduate in 2015.
Martin Gasner is based in Slovakia and operates a digital currency exchange called CryptoCurrency Exchange. We were in touch with Gasner, who disclaims any involvement in the creation or exchange of the Coinye currency.