1 February 2019Trademarks

Jay-Z succeeds in bid for more diverse trademark arbitration panel

Jay-Z has been handed victory in his bid to have a more diverse arbitration panel that is hearing his trademark dispute with clothing brand Iconix.

The rapper filed a petition to stay the litigation with the Manhattan Supreme Court in November 2018, saying that the lack of racial diversity on the American Arbitration Association (AAA) panel was discriminatory under New York’s State Constitution and New York City human rights law.

Six African-American candidates have now been added to the panel, entertainment news outlet PageSix  reported on Wednesday, January 30.

The dispute relates to Jay-Z’s ongoing trademark dispute with clothing company Iconix over the ‘Roc Nation’ trademark.

Iconix claims that it acquired the mark in class 25 in 2007. But Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Apparel company said that Iconix had “wrongfully” presumed that it owned the mark, which the rapper claimed was only created a year after the 2007 purchase.

In 2015, a settlement agreement was reached which stipulated that future disputes would be resolved by arbitration.

Nonetheless, Iconix sued for trademark infringement in 2017, claiming that the rapper’s Roc Nation line of baseball caps infringed its IP. Jay-Z responded with a breach of licence lawsuit later that year.

In his petition to the court, seen by PageSix, Jay-Z claimed that the AAA had no African-Americans on its “large and complex cases” roster of arbitrators. In addition, the association had just one Asian-American and one Latino arbitrator.

“This blatant failure of the AAA to ensure a diverse slate of arbitrators is particularly shocking given the prevalence of mandatory arbitration provisions in commercial contracts across nearly all industries,” he said

The motion to stay the case was withdrawn in December 2018 after the AAA agreed to diversify the panel. Jay-Z was presented with a list of potential candidates for the panel, although he said that of the 18 suggested arbitrators, only one was based in the New York area.

As well as adding six African-American arbitrators, the association has reportedly committed to considering 11 African-American presented by Jay-Z for the roster from which it picks arbitrators.

In a statement send to WIPR, the AAA said that "the non-profit organisation’s commitment to diversity is longstanding and has received significant additional focus in recent years".

"The AAA is confident that those numerous and ongoing efforts will continue to improve the diversity of our roster and contribute to greater inclusivity in the alternative dispute resolution field", the statement added.

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More on this story

29 November 2018   US rapper Jay-Z has claimed that there aren’t enough African-Americans to hear arbitration of a trademark dispute with brand management company Iconix Brand Group, in a bid to stop the case.