Nicki Minaj is speaking out against footwear brand Giuseppe Zanotti for making use of her name (and her inherent fame) to market its footwear and then turning around and failing to agree to a potential collaboration. In the midst of aligning itself with an array of big-name musicians, including Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West, Zayn Malik, and G-Dragon, among others, the Italian footwear brand has clearly taken a liking to award-winning Minaj, whose first name serves as the style name for a number of the brand’s shoes.
According to a series of tweets from Minaj on Friday, she says: “This is wonderful. #GiuseppeZanotti seems to think it’s ok to name his sneakers after me but his PR says they won’t take our call. Lol.” She continues: “I met #GiuseppeZanotti years ago. At which time, he told me I inspired him to design a sneaker in my honor. Wore them on the cover of Cosmo … Recently when he gave other artists capsule collections, my agency reached out and was told they’re not taking our call.”
The pricey sneakers that Minaj is referring to include some 23 styles (per Minaj) that were introduced by Zanotti in 2011. They are still being sold, according to a photo the rapper posted on her Instagram.
Interestingly, Zanotti’s arguably unauthorized use of her name on its shoes very well may present a few potential legal issues. Primarily, Minaj might have a successful trademark claim against Zanotti if she can assert trademark rights in her first name, which she may be able to do given her level of fame and the somewhat distinctive spelling of her first name. In pursuing a trademark infringement claim, she would also have to show that consumers are likely to be confused as to whether she is in some way connected to or affiliated with the Giuseppe Zanotti “Nicki” style shoes or endorsed them (or collaborated with Zanotti on them) which is arguably not unlikely given the frequency with which brands collaborate with celebrities and Zanotti’s relatively long list of musician collaborators.
Moreover, Minaj might be able to claim that Giuseppe Zanotti is violating her right of publicity (or right of privacy per New York state law), a legal doctrine that prevents the unauthorized commercial use of an individual’s name, likeness, or other recognizable aspects of one’s persona. It gives an individual the exclusive right to license the use of their identity for commercial promotion.
As for whether Minaj’s team will pursue any legal action has yet to be seen. Stay tuned …
UPDATED (2/3/2016): Giuseppe Zanotti has since removed all of the footwear styles named “Nicki” from its website. Minaj further noted on her Twitter: “I’d like them to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s hospital on my behalf. #GiuseppeWhatsGood Giorgina, I don’t wanna post your email.” (Note: Minaj is referring to Giorgina Fioruzzi, who is the VP of Communications, US Giuseppe Zanetti Design).