Jay-Z

Jay-Z is demanding diversity — even in court.

The rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter, filed a suit in a New York Supreme Court on Wednesday, the latest development in an ongoing trademark infringement case with brand management firm Iconix. Carter alleges the arbitration panel created to resolve the original issue lacks African Americans.

“When Mr. Carter began reviewing arbitrators on the [American Arbitration Association’s] Search Platform, however, he was confronted with a stark reality: he could not identify a single African American arbitrator,” the court documents filed on behalf of the musician state.

The panel includes three African American representatives — two men and one woman — as well as one Asian American, one South Asian and one Latino representative, according to court documents.  

But Carter’s lawyers were quick to point out that one of the African American men is actually a lawyer for Iconix, which represents “a glaringly obvious conflict of interest.”

“The AAA’s failure to provide a venire of arbitrators that includes more than a token number of African Americans renders the arbitration provision in the contract void as against public policy,” the court document continues.

It even goes so far as to describe Iconix as a company “facing serious financial distress, with its stock now trading at pennies on the dollar, Iconix has engaged in a series of desperate litigation gambits of which this is merely the latest installment.”

Iconix’s stock closed down 1.84 percent to 16 cent a share on Wednesday.  

The latest suit is part of ongoing litigation, first filed by Iconix in April 2017, suing Roc Nation, the entertainment company cofounded by Carter in 2008, for unauthorized use of Roc Nation trademarked logos.  

In March 2007, Iconix purchased Rocawear, an apparel company that was cofounded by Carter, for $204 million. As part of the agreement, the two parties said there would be some joint ventures between them in connection with the brand.

One such agreement occurred in 2017 when Roc Nation Apparel Group and New Era Cap Company, the official hat of the Major League Baseball, entered into an agreement to make limited-edition baseball caps with the “Roc Nation” logo on the interior of the hats. But Iconix alleges, even after the terms of the initial agreement expired, Roc Nation Apparel Group continued to use the Roc Nation mark “without authorization as a rogue licensee.”

Later that year the Securities and Exchange Commission began probing the case for possible violations of federal security laws in regards to the original sale.

In an attempt to uncover more of Iconix’s financial information, the SEC issued a subpoena for Carter last fall, saying it wanted the celebrity to answer questions, including his involvement with the brand after the initial sale, as well as the value of the Rocawear trademark logo.

But the musician kept stalling. At one point his lawyers pointed to his busy touring schedule as a reason why he hadn’t appeared. In May, after two failed attempts at getting Carter in court, the SEC issued an enforcement action. Then on Oct. 1, Iconix asked the courts to order an arbitration panel to help resolve the issue.

Iconix did not respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, Carter’s legal team is asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order and halt arbitration until the matter is resolved.

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