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Jay-Z succeeds in fight to diversify trademark arbitration panel

March 25, 2019


Shawn Carter, more commonly known as Jay-Z, has agreed to proceed with arbitration of a trademark and contract dispute with clothing company, Iconix Brand Group Inc., once the arbitration panel better reflects the diversity of the American population.

As reported by Page Six, Jay-Z sued last year to prevent the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) from proceeding with resolution of his dispute with Iconix, which arose following the 2007 sale to Iconix of his Rocawear clothing brand for approximately $204 million.

According to Yahoo!, Jay-Z had concerns about the fairness of the arbitration since only two of the more than two hundred proposed arbitrators had identified as African-American and had no conflicts of interest. Jay-Z claimed the lack of candidates constituted racial discrimination under New York law, effectively leaving him with “no choice at all” but to raise his concerns, and rendered void his earlier agreement to proceed with arbitration of the matter.

Page Six reports that Jay-Z argued for minority business owners to be given the opportunity to select from a group of candidates that better reflects the diversity of the population, noting that failure to do so would be a continued denial of the equal protection of the law for litigants of colour.

Jay-Z’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, told the Manhattan Supreme Court in late January that, since the AAA has agreed to allow a three-arbitrator panel instead of a single arbitrator, has offered five additional African-American candidates as options and has agreed to consider the rapper’s proposed list of eleven African-American candidates for qualification on its “Large and Complex Cases” roster (of which there were previously no black members), Jay-Z is now content to proceed with the arbitration.


Authors: Amanda Bertucci and Anna Condon


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