It’s a generally good rule to be cautious of what images you use for your business on the grounds of copyright infringement — no company wants to be on the receiving end of a C&D or even a lawsuit, if things take that turn. It should be an ironclad one to steer absolutely clear when dealing with images of brands or athletes or celebrities or generally anyone who has the resources to take you on and the willingness - eagerness, even - to do so.
Still, it would seem that businesses experiencing some degree of success might begin to feel themselves untethered from the rules that apply to lesser, earth-bound companies, and like Icarus of old, all seem to fly a bit too close to the sun and pay the price. The latest example is Robinhood, the trading platform that now finds itself at the center of a suit from a man who is now a business unto himself: Ice Cube.
Per a report from NBC Bay Area, Ice Cube was none too pleased to find that Robinhood had used his likeness in a newsletter, perhaps implying that he endorsed the company and its products. As such, he’s sued the company for trademark infringement over the image.
In the suit, O’Shea Jackson and his team make the case that the actor/rapper/entrepreneur is selective about what products and businesses he endorses, and proceed to make very clear his feelings about Robinhood and their practices, calling the company “an unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate” which, while less profane than some of his barbs from the 80’s, still hits pretty hard.
The story goes on to note that Jackson owns a trademark on the Ice Cube name, which along with the detail about his selectiveness about which endorsements he selects, seems like details that would have been hard to envision about a man that seemed just as likely to spurn endorsements thirty years ago as he was to be spurned by corporate America. (Time serves to soften us all, it seems.)
Robinhood’s focus might not be on intellectual property, but any business of any industry should have enough sense to not use images of famous folks in newsletters or anything else without permission. And yet somehow this is far from the worst controversy that the company has courted, given its role at the center of the GameStop fiasco a scant few months ago. While this trademark issue might be run-of-the-mill by comparison, any legal scuffle is enough to say that today’s not a good day.