Kanye West is no stranger to controversy. Most recently, West successfully shut down the Coinye project, a digital currency similar to Bitcoin that featured the famous rapper’s image. In January, West sent a cease and desist letter to the start-up behind Coinye, alleging trademark infringement and rights of publicity violations. However, it resulted in only minor changes; the company changed the name of the currency from “Coinye West” to simply “Coinye” and changed its logo to a fish bearing the face of the rapper. In response, West filed suit in New York federal court. The complaint named not only the site’s anonymous backers, but also websites trading on the currency, including 0daycoins.com, coinye-exchange.com, and newchg.com. West’s claims included “willful trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution, and rights of publicity violations among a score of other blatant statutory and common law violations.” As further detailed in the court documents: “Although Defendants could have chosen any name for their cryptocurrency, they deliberately chose to trade upon the goodwill associated with Mr. West by adopting names that are admitted plays on his name. Mr. West has been inextricably tied to Defendants' cryptocurrency, as practically every online article and blog post about the COINYE WEST currency mentions Mr. West and/or displays a photograph of Mr. West.” Earlier this month, a New York federal judge agreed, ruling that West was likely to succeed in his claims. She also granted West’s lawyers the legal authority to investigate the identities of the currency’s creators, who were only listed as “John Does” in the complaint. The complaint and subsequent ruling seemed to have caught the attention of Coinye’s backers. Following the court hearing, the digital currency’s website now reads, “Coinye is dead. You win, Kanye.” The law around digital currency is still in its infancy. However, the suit sends a strong message to other companies hoping to combine the growing popularity of Bitcoin with an unauthorized celebrity sponsor. The backers behind “Norris Coin” similarly dissolved after actor Chuck Norris threatened legal action. Like West, no one wants to mess with Walker Texas Ranger. If you have any questions about this case or would like to discuss the use of digital currency, please contact me, Dan Brecher, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.