The rapper sued Robinhood in March, alleging that it was damaging his reputation and violating trademark law by using his image and a take on his musical lyrics, and making it appear as if he endorsed the company, without his consent, in its "Robinhood Snacks" newsletter.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler wrote in a dismissal order that Ice Cube’s complaint “did not plausibly plead that Robinhood’s use of his identity suggested his endorsement of Robinhood’s products.” But she ruled that Ice Cube could file an amended complaint within 21 days.
“This is a simple procedural motion and we’re confident our amended pleading will resolve any questions,” Sean Hardy, an attorney for Ice Cube, told Yahoo Finance, indicating that Robinhood should not expect the dismissal to end the dispute.
Judge Beeler concluded that Ice Cube mistakenly characterized Robinhood’s publication as an advertisement, rather than a newsletter, and that courts have not historically recognized newsletters — thought to be less commercial in nature — as a basis to support the trademark claim.
“Robinhood used Ice Cube’s picture and paraphrase of a line from his song to illustrate an article about market corrections,” the judge wrote. “That illustration does not suggest that the plaintiff endorsed Robinhood." That would remain true, she said, even if Robinhood uses celebrity endorsements such as those from Nas and Jay-Z to promote its actual products.
However, she rejected Robinhood’s claims that Ice Cube fell short in establishing himself as a celebrity because he relied on “old pursuits'' made in the 1980s and 1990s.
“But why would Robinhood use the image and a paraphrase of the catchphrase if it did not capitalize on Ice Cube’s celebrity status?” the judge wrote in the order.
"We are pleased the court recognized that Robinhood Snacks articles are not advertisements and that the use of the movie image did not amount to an endorsement. Robinhood Snacks has become one of the most reliable and most read resources of digestible financial news for Robinhood customers and millions more across the globe. We hope the court’s ruling will put an end to this matter," Jacqueline Ortiz Ramsay, Robinhood's Head of Public Policy Communications, told Yahoo Finance.
'Check Yo Self'
In his lawsuit, Ice Cube complained that a March 8 publication posted to Robinhood’s “Robinhood Snacks” website and the company’s mobile app, unlawfully used his image and likeness, along with his signature catch phrase “Check Yo Self.” The artist, whose legal name is O'Shea Jackson, Sr., said the publication (mis)quoted the phrase which originated in lyrics from his hit single by the same name, and created the false impression that he endorses the company.
“In a cynical effort to appeal to a young demographic, Robinhood has engaged celebrity endorsers such as Jay-Z, Nas, and Jared Leto to endorse its products and services,” the complaint argued. “However, in an act of unmitigated gall and transparent retribution, Robinhood and its subsidiary have now used the image and likeness of Ice Cube – without his permission.”
Ice Cube’s allegations against Robinhood also brought claims under California’s Business and Professional Code, and its common law governing rights of publicity.
Robinhood, which has recently attracted millions of users, and plans to go public in July, has come under increasing legal and regulatory pressure based on its role in processing then limiting trades during the Reddit-fueled meme-stock upheaval that included GameStop (GME) and AMC Entertainment (AMC).
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.