Kanye West’s t-shirt is a fashion staple. Someone else owns the trademark “White Lives Matter”

Kanye West can’t make money off the ‘White Lives Matter’ tagline because someone else trademarked the phrase. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

As far as t-shirt sales go, “White Lives Matter” won’t bring Kanye West a dime. The rapper, legal name Ye, doesn’t own the trademark of the phrase, and black men who do don’t seem inclined to license it.

Phoenix radio hosts Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward received the hallmark of a longtime listener to their social justice-focused show, “Civic number“, Capital B Atlanta reported this week, keeping the claimant’s name anonymous.

“That person who first bought it didn’t really like owning it, because the goal wasn’t necessarily to get rich; the goal was to make sure other people didn’t get rich because of this pain,” Ja told the news site.

A trademark application was filed under Jae Gibson’s name on Oct. 3, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. databaseand Ja and Ward acquired the brand on Friday, according to Capital B. A voicemail for Gibson was full when The Times asked for comment, and a text message came back “undelivered.”

Ye and conservative scholar Candace Owens posed in long-sleeved “White Lives Matter” t-shirts October 3 at the rapper-creator’s fashion show at Paris Fashion Week for his Yeezy line. The models in the show also wore the shirts. Moving was not well received. Since then, Ye has seen massive business losses for his persistent anti-Semitic and conspiratorial remarks. Last week he attacked the mother of George Floyd’s child as “greedy” after filing a $250 million defamation lawsuit against him for recent comments on Floyd’s death.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to more than 20 years for the murder of Floyd, which sparked protests around the world.

But while Ye might have made headlines on “White Lives Matter,” the rights to profit from the expression — or not — are not his and almost never will be.

According to the Trademark Database, a form was filed Oct. 7 transferring contact information to a Phoenix address associated with Ja. Another form was filed Nov. 2, transferring ownership of the file to Civic Cipher LLC and the mailing address to a UPS store in Phoenix.

The original contestant opted to give radio hosts the brand, Ja said, because they “felt we were in a much more public position to use it to benefit black people.”

Ward and Ja now have the right to sue anyone who uses the phrase for profit through the sale of blouses, boxers or panties, t-shirts or tank tops, hoodies, jeggings or leggings, joggers or sweatshirts, socks, sports, dresses, skirts, shorts and more.

An article called out might hurt Ye more than most, given his penchant for head-to-toe coverage: Ski goggles that say “White Lives Matter” would fall under trademark protection.

The radio hosts decided to accept ownership of the brand, Ja said. CNN, “once it was clear that someone could make a significant profit from it”. The phrase was considered white supremacist hate speech by the Anti-Defamation League and a “racist response” to the Black Lives Matter movement by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“[A]s you saw,” said Ja, “even though he [West] says really hurtful, divisive and sometimes crazy things, he’s got a bit of a bigot and every time he releases something, it sells out.”

Weeks after Ye launched his shirts – which had pictures of two different popes on the front and the WLM slogan on the back – one of his associates allegedly gave a box to people living on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles

Ja told Capital B that he and his co-host see two ways their ownership of the brand could go: someone could offer millions to own the brand, in which case they would sell and donate the money to an organization to non-profit supporting black people, or they could one day donate the “White Lives Matter” trademark rights to Black Lives Matter.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

About Jeff M. Thompson

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