Jay-Z Pleads Court to Remove Him from the Spotlight

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Jay-Z does not want to be in the spotlight- at least not the spotlight of a New York federal judge. This past April, the hip-hop tycoon and Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment company, were sued by Iconix Brand Group, Inc. (“Iconix”) after using the brand’s logo on a series of Major League Baseball hats allegedly in violation of a $204 million licensing deal. But, Jay-Z claims that plaintiffs have failed to put forth any evidence showing that he is personally liable. Plaintiffs sued Jay-Z in his individual capacity for unfair competition, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, among other things.

On October 27, Shawn Carter, professionally known as Jay-Z, urged the court to throw out claims brought against him by brand manager, Iconix. Jay-Z filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rules 8 and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In his motion, he argued that plaintiffs’ attempt to use his “celebrity status to advance their claims” is improper and should “not be tolerated.” The motion also claimed that plaintiffs’ complaint “does nothing to suggest that Mr. Carter was personally involved in any of the activities forming the basis of their claims,” and alleged that some kind of “personal participation” is required to establish individual liability for a corporation’s misconduct. Jay-Z also argued that the complaint fails to satisfy Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because it makes “sweeping references to the Roc Defendants” and does not attempt to distinguish between them. The motion explains that plaintiffs frequently attempt to group various corporate and individual defendants together, sometimes referring to them as “Defendants,” and sometimes as the
“Roc Defendants.” Jay-Z further articulated that Rule 8 requires plaintiffs to indicate explicitly the defendants against which relief is sought and argued that plaintiffs cannot “lump” the defendants together in its claim without providing a factual basis to differentiate their conduct.

In 2007, Iconix acquired the Roc Nation trademark and all derivatives of it for $204 million, according to the suit. Subsequently, a dispute broke out between Iconix and Jay-Z regarding the Roc Nation logo and name. In 2015, the parties reached a confidential agreement partially resolving the disagreement. According to the complaint, certain disputes regarding royalty payments were resolved, but not all disputes between the parties were settled, including those relating to ownership or control of the Roc Nation trademark. Plaintiffs accuse Jay-Z of being a “rogue holdover licensee,” alleging that he permitted Roc Nation to enter into agreements with other companies, Major League Baseball, for example, and allowing them to produce and sell merchandise infringing on its Roc Nation mark.  Plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief, an accounting, compensatory and statutory damages, trebling of the damages under applicable statutes, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

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