O’Shea Jackson, the rapper, film star and entrepreneur better known as Ice Cube, had filed suit in federal court in San Francisco against the Menlo Park-based securities trading platform Robinhood Markets, Inc. and its affiliate, Robinhood Financial LLC.

Jackson, in a suit filed Wednesday, claims that on March 8 Robinhood posted a photograph of him in its Robinhood Snacks newsletter that implied that the popular rapper endorsed Robinhood’s business. The photograph was not removed after a cease and desist letter was allegedly sent to Robinhood on March 10.

A visit to the website on Friday found that the photograph was still accessible.

In an invective-filled complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Jackson says that “Robinhood is an unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate that professes to be a financial services company for the everyday person. In truth, Robinhood is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is the archetypal example of an amoral corporation that places profits over people.”

Jackson alleges that he has “spent years meticulously building the value of his image and overall brand by carefully scrutinizing the products and services he is asked to endorse.”

The complaint goes on to say that “Robinhood is the antithesis of everything that Ice Cube stands for. It represents corporate greed on a massive scale.”

The complaint sums up stating, “Defendants deliberately and shamelessly misappropriated Ice Cube’s image and likeness to promote Robinhood’s horrible products and services — the last things in the world to which Ice Cube would ever attach his image and likeness.”

ICE CUBE is a registered trademark first filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2007. Jackson claims that Robinhood’s use of Ice Cube’s image and likeness violates trademark law because it is likely “to cause confusion, mistake, or deception of consumers as to Ice Cube’s endorsement.”

“Robinhood is the antithesis of everything that Ice Cube stands for. It represents corporate greed on a massive scale.”

Court filing

Jackson also asserts claims under California laws that protect against unauthorized use of a person’s likeness. No specific amount of damages is demanded, but Jackson seeks an injunction, monetary damages, punitive damages and reimbursement of Jackson’s attorney fees.

Jackson was born in South Central Los Angeles and first attracted wide attention as a member of the group N.W.A, responsible for a number of compositions on its first album “Straight Outta Compton.” He has released many albums and appeared in dozens of movies, television, and documentary productions.

The complaint states that “Ice Cube has devoted his life to the cause of social justice and civil rights, standing up for the disenfranchised in American society. In 2020, Ice Cube’s social activism culminated in the publishing of A Contract with Black America, a covenant to right the centuries of wrongs that have been inflicted on Black Americans.

He currently promotes his own line of cannabis products, marketed under the name “Fryday.”

Robinhood is a securities trading and investment platform that uses the tagline “We’re on a mission to democratize finance for all.”

Robinhood was started in 2013 by two former Stanford undergraduates, Baiju Bhatt and Vladimir Tenev, who decided to build “a financial product that would enable everyone — not just the wealthy — access to financial markets,” according to the website.

Robinhood grew quickly, offering commission-free trading on a platform optimized for mobile use.

Jackson’s photograph appeared on “Robinhood Snacks,” a newsletter available to Robinhood account holders and available generally on the company’s website.

Robinhood attracted a tsunami of attention in 2021 after a large group of self-organized retail investors trading on the Robinhood platform began to bid up the price of the video game seller GameStop that had been heavily shorted by hedge funds.

The situation turned into one of the big stories of the new year as the army of small buyers drove GameStop’s price to record highs, in the process squeezing the hedge fund traders and forcing them to cover billions of dollars of short positions, generating massive trading losses.

Joe Dworetzky is a second career journalist. He practiced law in Philadelphia for more than 35 years, representing private and governmental clients in commercial litigation and insolvency proceedings. Joe served as City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia under Mayor Ed Rendell and from 2009 to 2013 was one of five members of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission with responsibility for managing the city’s 250 public schools. He moved to San Francisco in 2011 and began writing fiction and pursuing a lifelong interest in editorial cartooning. Joe earned a Master’s in Journalism from Stanford University in 2020. He covers Legal Affairs and writes long form Investigative stories. His occasional cartooning can be seen in Bay Area Sketchbook. Joe encourages readers to email him story ideas and leads at joe.dworetzky@baycitynews.com.