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Ice Cube, Robinhood Square Off on Standing In Suit Over Likeness

Sept. 16, 2021, 7:24 PM

Rapper Ice Cube lacks standing to sue Robinhood Markets Inc. for allegedly sullying his reputation by using his image and a line from one of his songs in a newsletter, the trading platform argued Thursday before a federal judge in California.

Robinhood was seeking to dismiss Ice Cube’s beefed up complaint, filed after a June dismissal. It argued in a Zoom hearing that the new complaint fails for largely the same reasons as the previous one. According to Robinhood, Ice Cube still couldn’t show standing because he failed to show how the use of his image amounted to a false endorsement under the Lanham Act.

Ice Cube, however, argued that the newsletter in which the image and quote appeared was meant to “blur the lines” between Robinhood’s business services and a standalone communication to inform investors, and that the image was meant to attach the company to a cultural icon. These allegations are sufficient at the pleading stage of the litigation, he said.

The judge took the matter under submission without making a ruling.

Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson Sr., filed the suit in March, calling the company an “unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate” that “deliberately and shamelessly misappropriated” his image. The complaint honed in on a newsletter for financial information that used an image of Ice Cube along with a paraphrased form of his platinum single “Check Yo Self.”

Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held in June that Ice Cube hadn’t established standing and tentatively tossed the case. He couldn’t show Robinhood’s use of his identity “created the misapprehension that the plaintiff sponsored, endorsed, or is affiliated with Robinhood,” the judge held.

Freedman & Taitelman LLP represented Ice Cube. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP represented Robinhood.

The case is Jackson v. Robinhood Mkts. Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 3:21-cv-02304, 9/16/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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