The music artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z has been involved in a long-standing legal dispute with Iconix Brand Group (‘IBG’). IBG is an American brand management company that acquires trade marks and other intellectual property to licence to others.
In 2007, IBG alleged that Jay-Z sold the ‘Roc Nation’ trade mark to his Rocawear clothing brand for $204 million to them. However, Jay-Z (through the Roc Nation Apparel Company) stated that as the trade mark concerned was created a year after the sale, it was incorrect for IBG to think that the sale included this trade mark.
In 2015, the parties had agreed to a settlement agreement stipulating that any further disputes should be resolved through arbitration. Arbitration is the process involving an agreed appointed person (arbitrator) that assesses the evidence and decides on an outcome. It has become the norm for arbitration clauses to be included in licencing and copyright contracts.
Arbitration has proven to be a more efficient and cost-effective way of handling commercial disputes compared to litigation (going to the court). As a deadlock between the parties can lead to steep financial repercussions, one can see why Jay-Z and IBG opted to use this.
Nevertheless, IBG brought legal proceedings against Jay-Z for trade mark infringement with his Roc Nation line of baseball caps.
In 2018, IBG commenced arbitration proceedings against the rapper stating that he had infringed his obligation under the agreement reached in 2015. However, earlier this month the parties were able to reach a new settlement agreement. IBG filed at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York stating that neither side admitted any wrongdoing and they had agreed on how to proceed without future litigation. As a result, IBG has stated that it would sell some of its intellectual property assets for $15 million to Roc Nation (Jay-Z’s entertainment agency).
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