In late March of this year, Ice Cube filed a firmly worded lawsuit against stock-trading app Robinhood for allegedly using his name and likeness without permission in an “advertisement.” Now, a federal judge has officially dismissed the complaint due to lack of standing.
The 52-year-old “It Was A Good Day” creator alleged in his no-holds-barred action that the “unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate” Robinhood had “used the image and likeness of Ice Cube – without his permission – to promote” its “terrible products and services.”
Said “image and likeness” referred to a picture (from 2007’s Are We Done Yet?) of the rapper and actor along with altered lyrics from his “Check Yo Self” track, displayed as part of “an online article that it [Robinhood] published about a market correction for tech stocks,” according to the defendant. Ice Cube and his counsel characterized the publication as an “advertisement,” once again, though the judge in her order granting the dismissal request indicated that the article/newsletter “is demonstrably not an advertisement.”
The artist also said that he had sent the company a cease-and-desist letter on March 10th, 2021, but the entity allegedly continued to exploit the media in question. Robinhood higher-ups, for their part, promptly pushed back against the allegations.
Additionally, the suit noted that entertainment exec Jeff Kwatinetz – who co-founded Big3 with Ice Cube and serves as COO of the rapper’s Cube Vision production business – had “publicly held the company to account” by previously filing a separate complaint against Robinhood (not involving Ice Cube).
Eight-year-old Robinhood “specifically sought to punish and make an example out of Ice Cube due to” Kwatinetz’s prior complaint, the newly dismissed action stated. Lastly, in terms of the litigation’s nuances, Robinhood, which has enlisted Jay-Z, Nas, and other acts to appear in promos, purportedly relied upon “its well-publicized association with such prominent rappers when it unlawfully used Ice Cube’s image and likeness.”
As initially mentioned, however, a federal judge has now dismissed Ice Cube’s suit against Robinhood due to lack of standing, new documents show, “because the plaintiff did not plausibly plead that Robinhood’s use of his identity suggested his endorsement of Robinhood’s products.”
Ice Cube, Judge Laurel Beeler explained in her ruling, “plausibly alleged his celebrity status and economic injury.” However, the California native “did not plausibly allege that the use of his identity was endorsement, which means that he does not have standing,” the judge also determined.
Regarding Robinhood’s claim that Ice Cube didn’t plausibly demonstrate his celebrity status “because he relies on old pursuits (music in the 1980s and movies in the 1990s) or those that are not famous (the three-on-three basketball tournament)” in the lawsuit, the presiding judge posed a question about why Robinhood would “use the image and a paraphrase of the catchphrase if it did not capitalize on Ice Cube’s celebrity status.”
Building upon the point, that Ice Cube “robustly” alleged his celebrity status “allows his recovery if he otherwise pleads viable claims for the unauthorized use of his identity,” the judge wrote. In addition to dismissing the complaint because of a lack of standing, the court denied Robinhood’s motion to strike as moot, granting the plaintiff a 21-day window to file an amended complaint (along with “a blackline of the changes”).