Robinhood dodges Ice Cube’s false endorsement claims

2 minute read

The welcome screen for the Robinhood App is displayed on a screen in this photo illustration January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Illustration - RC2THL9EF7E5

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  • Robinhood used Ice Cube's image, rap line in newsletter
  • Court says use of likeness in article didn't imply endorsement

(Reuters) - Stock trading app Robinhood has at least temporarily escaped rapper and actor Ice Cube’s claims in San Francisco federal court that it misused his image in advertising by including a photo of him and a paraphrase of one of his rap lines in a newsletter.

Ice Cube -- whose given name is O'Shea Jackson -- didn't show that Robinhood's use of his likeness implied he endorsed its products, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler ruled Tuesday.

Beeler gave Ice Cube 21 days to file an amended complaint.

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"This is a simple procedural motion and we're confident our amended pleading will resolve any questions," Ice Cube's attorney Sean Hardy of Freedman & Taitelman said in a Wednesday email.

Robinhood spokesperson Jacqueline Ortiz Ramsay said in a Wednesday email that the company is pleased with the ruling and hopes it will put an end to the matter.

Mitchell Langberg and Matthew McKissick of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck represented Robinhood.

Ice Cube sued Robinhood in March for using a picture of him in its "Robinhood Snacks" newsletter on financial issues, captioned with the line "correct yourself, before you wreck yourself" -- an altered version of his famous rap line "check yo self before you wreck yo self" referring to stock corrections.

The rapper's complaint called the company behind the controversial trading app "an unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate" and said he would never promote its "horrible products and services." The complaint said Robinhood's use of his image and catchphrase amounted to false endorsement and violated his publicity rights under California law.

But Beeler said the newsletter was "demonstrably not an advertisement," and Ice Cube lacked standing because Robinhood's use of his image and catchphrase to "illustrate an article about market corrections" didn't suggest he endorsed the company.

"No case establishes Article III standing under similar circumstances" without an explicit endorsement, Beeler said.

The case is Jackson v. Robinhood Markets Inc., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:21-cv-02304.

For Ice Cube: Michael Taitelman and Sean Hardy of Freedman & Taitelman

For Robinhood: Mitchell Langberg and Matthew McKissick of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com