By Scott Nyman
In the early 1990′s, gangster rappers were all the rage. Rappers like Biggie Smalls, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Tupac Shakur drew upon their lives in the streets for creativity. In these modern times, it seems much of that creativity has been lost. Rap has turned to into hip-hop, as rappers have turned into artists. In some instances, these modern artists borrow from others to find their own inspiration.
Recently, hip-hop artist Rick Ross has won the favor of California’s U.S. District Court, Southern District, for borrowing his stage name from former cocaine trafficker Ricky Ross. Born William Leonard Roberts II, defendant Rick Ross found himself in a legal battle against the former crime boss for infringing upon the allegedly trademarked name.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark to include any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof used or intended to be used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods or services from a manufacturer. A trademark’s purpose is to associate a good or service with its source. In short, a trademark is a brand name.
The Court delivered its first blow against Ricky Ross in July, when they denied injunctive relief against the release of the album Teflon Don. Earlier this week, the District Court dismissed the entire suit, reasoning that the drug trafficker’s illegal activities made it impossible to determine if a valid trademark could exist for the name “Ricky Ross.”
The court said, “in support of his trademark claims, Plaintiff alleges that his name was well known in the drug trade and by law enforcement segments of urban crime, rap and black community because he did business as Rick Ross, until he was arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated in federal prison. Because this illegal activity cannot be used to establish a secondary meaning, such allegations do not provide for support for Plaintiff having a valid trademark for his name.”