“Coinye West” is closing up shop because Kanye West isn’t happy. On January 14, 2014, Kanye West filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the virtual currency now known as Coinye. The currency, which started as a joke, announced through its website, “Coinye is dead. You win, Kanye.”
Earlier this month, the currency’s founders discussed Coinye West in an interview with Vibe. They talked about the soon to be launched currency. Referring to Kanye, they said “I think he’s gonna love that there’s a CURRENCY named in his honor.”
They were wrong. Within days of the interview Kanye took action. On January 6th, he served the founders with a cease and desist letter. Kanye’s attorney wrote, “Mr. West’s tremendous success and notoriety has catapulted the KANYE WEST brand into a commercial asset of incalculable value … Given Mr. West’s wide-ranging entrepreneurial accomplishments, consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Mr. West is the source of your services.”
In response, the founders made small changes in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit. They shortened the name from “Coinye West” to just “Coinye.” They changed the original cartoon image of Kanye wearing his signature shades to a fish with Kanye like characteristics wearing the same sunglasses. The founders also tried to avoid the harms of a suit, if filed, by launching Coinye sooner than expected and moving its website to one registered in India.
All of those actions weren’t enough to stop the lawsuit. Kanye’s suit states, “Defendants have willfully and admittedly traded upon the goodwill and notoriety of Kanye West, one of the most famous entertainers and brand names in the world.” “In interviews with the press, defendants brazenly admit that they adopted the marks Coinye West, Coinye and Coye to directly associate their newly minted crypto-currency with Mr. West.”
The suit was also brought against some currency exchange websites and Amazon.com. Amazon provides hosting services for those exchange sites. Kanye is seeking unspecified damages for the irreparable harm caused by consumers’ mistaken belief that he is the source of the currency.