Court dismisses Ice Cube’s false association suit against financial services company Robinhood, holding that his allegations that Robinhood used his image and paraphrased lyric from his song “Check Yo Self” in newsletter were insufficient to plausibly plead use of his identity in manner suggesting he endorsed Robinhood’s products.
Plaintiff O’Shea Jackson Sr., a hip-hop recording artist known as Ice Cube, sued financial services company Robinhood Markets Inc., alleging that Robinhood’s use of his image and a paraphrased lyric from his song “Check Yo Self” in a “breezy, colloquial” newsletter on the company’s “Robinhood Snacks” website suggested that he endorsed Robinhood’s products, in violation of the Lanham Act and California law. The newsletter included a licensed image of Ice Cube from his movie Are We Done Yet? with the caption, “Correct yourself, before you wreck yourself” (a reference to “check yo self before you wreck yo self”—Ice Cube’s famous lyric from the 1992 song “Check Yo Self”) above an article discussing stock market corrections.
Robinhood moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim. It also moved to strike the state-law claims under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute. After laying out the tripartite test for Article III standing—which requires the plaintiff to have suffered an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the defendant’s challenged conduct and that is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision—the court held that Ice Cube lacked Article III standing because he failed to allege an injury in fact.
The court rejected Robinhood’s first argument that Ice Cube did not plausibly allege his celebrity status because he relied on “old pursuits” from the 1980s and 1990s, questioning why Robinhood would use Ice Cube’s image and paraphrased lyric if not to “capitalize” on Ice Cube’s celebrity status, and concluding that plaintiff had “robustly” alleged his celebrity status. However, the court found that Robinhood’s second argument—that the newsletter is not an advertisement and the use of plaintiff’s image and lyric to illustrate the newsletter did not suggest he had endorsed Robinhood—was dispositive. The court thus concluded that Ice Cube lacked Article III standing to sue because he failed to plead an injury in fact. Finally, the court agreed with Robinhood that the plaintiff also lacked statutory standing under the Lanham Act because he failed to allege how Robinhood’s use of his identity created the misapprehension that he sponsored, endorsed or is affiliated with Robinhood.
Summary prepared by Sarah Schacter and David Forrest