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Judge dismisses Ice Cube’s lawsuit against Robinhood

By | Published on Wednesday 16 June 2021

Ice Cube

The judge overseeing Ice Cube’s legal battle with the Robinhood stock-trading app has, as expected, dismissed the rapper’s lawsuit. Although his legal reps say that the decision is simply “procedural”, noting that the judge has given their client 21 days to submit an amended complaint.

Ice Cube sued the financial services firm over an article it posted to its Robinhood Snacks news website which featured a picture of the rapper 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’.

He argued that the use of his photo on that article implied he was endorsing the company. And, he added in no uncertain terms in his lawsuit, he didn’t want anyone thinking he had any connections to “an unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate that professes to be a financial services company for the everyday person [but which is] in truth … a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

The rapper specifically accused the Robinhood company of infringing his trademark and publicity rights. For its part, Robinhood denied all those allegations and sought to have the case dismissed.

After hearing arguments from both sides last week, judge Laurel Beeler said that deciding on whether or not to grant Robinhood’s motion to dismiss depended entirely on whether or not the use of Ice Cube’s photo had in anyway implied endorsement.

Beeler didn’t seem convinced that it had during last week’s hearing, and she confirmed that viewpoint yesterday. “This court dismissed the complaint for lack of standing because the plaintiff did not plausibly plead that Robinhood’s use of his identity suggested his endorsement of Robinhood’s products”, she wrote in her ruling.

She added: “Robinhood used Ice Cube’s picture and paraphrase of a line from his song to illustrate an article about market corrections. That illustration does not suggest that the plaintiff endorsed Robinhood – even if Robinhood uses celebrity endorsements – including Nas and Jay-Z – to promote its actual products, as the plaintiff alleges”.

Among other things, Robinhood had stressed that its Snacks website and bulletin was an editorial service. But Ice Cube countered that that’s not really true, because the news service is a marketing tool for Robinhood’s other services, and therefore articles on it are actually promotional.

However, Beeler sided with Robinhood on that point too. She wrote: “The plaintiff characterises the newsletter as an advertisement, not a newsletter. But he attaches the newsletter, which is demonstrably not an advertisement”.

Concluding, Beeler’s ruling stated: “The court dismisses the complaint for lack of standing … the plaintiff must file any amended complaint within 21 days and attach a blackline of the changes”.

While a rep for Robinhood told Law360 they were “pleased” with the ruling which, they hoped, would “put an end to this matter”, Ice Cube’s lawyer honed in on the option to submit an amended complaint. They said: “This is a simple procedural motion, and we’re confident our amended pleading will resolve any questions”. So, not an end to this matter then. Fun times.