Kanye West’s tee is a fashion don’t. Someone else owns ‘White Lives Matter’ trademark
When it comes to T-shirt sales, “White Lives Matter” will not make a dime for Kanye West. The rapper, legal name Ye, doesn’t own the trademark to the phrase and the Black men who do don’t seem inclined to license it to him.
Phoenix radio hosts Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward were given the trademark by a longtime listener to their social justice-focused show, “Civic Cipher,” Capital B Atlanta reported this week, keeping the applicant’s name anonymous.
“This person who first procured it didn’t really love owning it, because the purpose was not necessarily to get rich off of it; the purpose was to make sure that other people didn’t get rich off of that pain,” Ja told the news site.
A trademark request was filed under the name Jae Gibson on Oct. 3, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database, and Ja and Ward acquired the mark Friday, according to Capital B. A voice mailbox for Gibson was full when The Times reached out for comment, and a text message came back “not delivered.”
Companies from Balenciaga to CAA to Adidas have cut ties with Ye amid antisemitic tirades. Now his Donda Academy is closing until next school year.
Ye and conservative pundit Candace Owens posed in long-sleeved “White Lives Matter” T-shirts Oct. 3 at the rapper-designer’s Paris Fashion Week show for his Yeezy line. Models in the show wore the shirts as well. The move was not well-received. Since then, Ye has seen massive business losses over his continued antisemitic and conspiracy-minded remarks. Last week he attacked the mother of George Floyd’s child as “greedy” after she filed a $250 million defamation suit against him over recent comments about how Floyd died.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to more than 20 years for the murder of Floyd, which sparked protests worldwide.
But while Ye might have made “White Lives Matter” headlines, the rights to profit off the phrase — or not — do not belong to him and almost certainly never will.
According to the trademark database, a form was filed Oct. 7 transferring contact information to a Phoenix address associated with Ja. Another form was filed Nov. 2 changing ownership of record to Civic Cipher LLC and the correspondence address to a UPS Store in Phoenix.
The original applicant chose to give the mark to the radio hosts, Ja said, because they “felt we were in a much more public position to use it to the advantage of Black folks.”
In a since-deleted Instagram post, West criticized the mother of Floyd’s daughter for suing him after he made false statements about Floyd’s cause of death.
Ward and Ja now have the right to sue anyone who uses the phrase for financial gain via the sale of blouses, boxers or panties, T-shirts or tank tops, hoodies, jeggings or leggings, jogging suits or sweats, socks, sport coats, dresses, skirts, shorts and more.
One item called out might hurt Ye more than most, given his penchant for covering himself head to toe: Ski masks that say “White Lives Matter” would fall under trademark protection.
The radio hosts decided to accept ownership of the mark, Ja told CNN, “once it was clear that someone stood to gain significant profit from it.” The phrase has been deemed white supremacist hate speech by the Anti-Defamation League and a “racist response” to the Black Lives Matter movement by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“[A]s you’ve seen,” Ja said, “even though he [West] says some really hurtful, divisive and sometimes crazy things, he has a bit of a zealot following and every time he releases something, it sells out.”
Kim Kardashian West launched a shapewear line Tuesday with the unfortunate name Kimono Solutionwear.
A couple of weeks after Ye debuted his shirts — which had pictures of two different popes on the front and the WLM slogan on the back — one of his associates reportedly gave a box of them away to people living on Skid Row in downtown L.A.
Ja told Capital B that he and his co-host saw two ways their ownership of the trademark could go: Someone could offer millions to own the mark, in which case they would sell and donate the cash to a Black-supporting nonprofit, or they might one day give the “White Lives Matter” trademark rights to Black Lives Matter.
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