U.S. Markets closed

Coinye: Rapper Kanye West strikes back at Yeezy-inspired cryptocurrency

The Exchange

FILE - In this July 1, 2012 file photo, Kanye West performs at the BET Awards in Los Angeles. West’s new album “Yeezus” is an artsy, dark adventure that isn’t easy to digest. The 10 tracks are made up of moody, electronic and erratic beats, and lyrics about race and religion. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Create a new digital currency, name it after rapper Kanye West and delight the online world with this clever, consumer-friendly take on the Bitcoin trend. And it appeared to be working as of last week, when the idea for the cryptocurrency “Coinye West” was first announced, complete with a cartoon version Kanye’s face on its logo and a currency “mining” program called “Gold Digger,” presumably inspired by West’s 2005 hit of the same name.

“We chose Kanye because of his trendsetting abilities and his originality,” the anonymous developers told PC World at the time. Coinye was set to launch on January 11.

Trouble is, nobody asked Kanye about all this, and on Monday his lawyers sent the Coinye developers a cease and desist letter, alleging copyright infringement and accusing the currency’s backers of attempting to profit off of West’s public image.

"Interviews with the founders of the Coinye West cryptocurrency leave no doubt that your clear intent is to trade upon the goodwill associated with the Kanye West mark and Mr. West's international fame and notoriety,” wrote Brad Rose with the law firm of Pryor Cashman LLP. “Consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Mr. West is the source of your services or is, at the very least, affiliated with, or has sponsored or endorsed the cryptocurrency.”

In response, the currency’s developers pushed Coinye out earlier than planned, on Tuesday. “We want to get this into the hands of the public – after all, it’s peer to peer and unstoppable,” they wrote on their site. But they also appear to be bowing to the legal pressure in some ways, updating their logo to look less Kanye-inspired (by adding a fish tail to the side of his head), changing the name of their currency from “Coinye West” to just “Coinye” and moving their website to a hosting service based in India.

Coinye is, of course, just the latest entrant in the rapidly-growing digital currency space. Buoyed by the success of Bitcoin – the original cryptocurrency that’s now valued at more than $840 per “coin” – the online marketplace now includes competitors like Litecoin, Peercoin, Ripple and Dogecoin, which was launched in December 2013 and features an image of a Shiba Inu dog on its virtual logo. According to The Guardian, there are now more than 60 of these digital peer-to-peer currencies available for online use.