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Ice Cube’s Robinhood lawsuit dismissed for a second time

By | Published on Tuesday 21 September 2021

Ice Cube

Ice Cube’s second go at suing the Robinhood stock-trading app over the alleged infringement of his trademark and publicity rights has already failed. And this time his case has been dismissed with prejudice, meaning he won’t be able to file any further litigation on the matter.

The rapper sued the financial services firm over an article it posted to its Robinhood Snacks news website earlier this year. The article was accompanied by a picture of Ice Cube and the caption “Correct yourself before you wreck yourself”, a play on the lyric, “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self” from his 1993 track ‘Check Yo Self’.

In his lawsuit, the rapper argued that the use of his photo on that article implied he was endorsing the company. But Robinhood countered that it had properly licensed the photo from the agency that owned the copyright in it, and its use of the image in an editorial context did not imply any sort of endorsement of its products. Therefore there was no trademark and publicity rights case to answer.

In part, the case centred on whether the Robinhood Snacks news site and bulletin – an editorial service used as a marketing tool – constituted advertising. The judge overseeing the case, Laurel Beeler, accepted that Robinhood Snacks was economically motivated, but that didn’t necessarily make it advertising nor the use of the Ice Cube photo endorsement.

Beeler dismissed the case back in June, but gave Ice Cube the option to submit an amended complaint. As a result, the case was back in court last week, with both sides re-presenting their respective arguments.

However, the judge ultimately reached the same conclusion as first time round. “The amended complaint falls for the same defect found in the original: It does not sufficiently plead an injury in fact because Robinhood’s use of Ice Cube’s image and phrase does not suggest Ice Cube’s endorsement of Robinhood’s product”, she stated, as she dismissed the rapper’s second lawsuit with prejudice yesterday.

New allegations in the amended complaint, she added, “do not add facts that create any likelihood of consumer confusion” regarding whether or not Ice Cube was endorsing Robinhood’s products when his photo appeared in the Snacks article.

Needless to say, the rapper does not agree with the judge, who is simply “wrong”. HeĀ told Law360: “You cannot take people’s lyrics and likeness as an endorsement without permission. This is another example of judges letting big business do whatever they want to us”.

But Robinhood, also unsurprisingly, welcomed the ruling. A spokesperson said: “Robinhood will always vigorously defend its reputation against false accusations of wrongdoing. Robinhood Snacks has become one of the most reliable and most read resources of digestible financial news for Robinhood customers and millions more across the globe. We look forward to continuing to provide educational tools and a welcoming platform to democratise finance for all”.