Trademark Bun Fight : Kanye West Vs Burger Shop

    In the wake of the legal threat, Mark Elkhouri, a mega fan of Kanye West and a business owner of a College Dropout Burgers store was disappointed when he was forced to take down everything in reference to Kanye West after paying homage to the singer. The family-run business had his College Dropout Burgers store named after the singer’s album and multiple dishes were also named in his honor.

    The entire store was themed upon Kanye West and even a mural of the singer appeared “as a god” featured at the entrance. Inspired by the West’s “Dropout Bear”, the Bear logo was stamped on each of their buns making it more iconic for a must-visit Burger shop.

    It became apparent how the burger shop rode Kanye West’s fortune. Does it still considered as an “inspiration” or more likely riding on goodwill?

    According to Elkhouri, he only intended to honor West by using his artwork. For a while, it had come to their impression when Kanye West had personally appeared to watch them on social media and only assumed the Instagram follow simply served as an appreciative nod back.

    But the Burger’s creator soon found out the fine line between inspiration and copying or passing off the moment West’s legal team came knocking on the door.

    Imagine you work hard on building a brand empire, but someone simply comes and monetizes it in the name of “paying tribute”. Would you not want to claim ownership of it?

    With that being the case, West’s lawyers had issued a cease-and-desist letter as a follow-up to one that Elkhouri had received back in February 2021.

    The 43 pages of the letter were issued to Federal Court accusing Elkhouri of misleading and deceptive conduct. West’s legal team has stated that the continued use of the business name “College Dropout Burgers” and a burger named after “College Dropout” is continuing to cause damage to the musician.

    In summary of what has been requested, the College Dropout Burgers must adhere to the letter as follows :

    • cease using the ‘crowned bear’ logo;
    • make no Kanye song or album references on the menu ;
    • destroy or alter any artworks or murals that depict Kanye; and
    • no longer assert that they are directly inspired by the music of Kanye or the person Kanye.

    In response to that, Elkhouri being a fan was left with no choice but to pay respect to his idol’s request. He decided to remain the shop’s name as he himself is a college dropout, but the burger names will be changed to honor other figures who also dropped out of colleges such as Mark Zuckerburg, Brad Pitt, and Steve Jobs.

    Quick flash

    1. Song titles are not Copyright

    Although College Dropout Burgers named their multiple dishes in honor of West’s songs titles, it is unlikely to attract Copyright protection as a ‘literary work’. Song titles like “College Dropout” have been held to be too short to qualify for copyright protection.

    1. Images Rights in Malaysia

    The Internet has given us access to world photos and images but just because you can, should you?

    In the case of celebrity images, it is wise to exercise caution. Photographs may be the subject of copyright and any use of such an image without a license may amount to copyright infringement.  

    There is no right to publicity or image rights in Malaysia that are well established which would give a celebrity ground to control the use of their images, nor is there a tort of invasion of privacy. However, several aspects of image rights, such as inventiveness and creation, may be protected under certain areas of intellectual property.

    It is advisable for a celebrity to choose to Trademark their name or any part of their personality to own proper control of their persona. Therefore, intellectual property rights ought to be established, protected, and registered with the correct legislation for the relevant individuals to manage their reputation which can be leveraged as another source of revenue.

    This article is brought to you by Exy IP PTE. LTD.

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