Kanye West can’t legally sell his “White Lives Matter” T-shirts in the United States because Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward, two Black activists who host the nationally syndicated radio show Civic Cipher, own the trademark for the controversial phrase, glamsquad reports.
Kanye made headlines last month when he debuted the “White Lives Matter” designs at the YZY Season 9 fashion show. The phrase has been widely condemned as a cavalier response to Black Lives Matter, a global social movement aimed at combating police brutality and racially motivated violence.
According to reports, the activists in Arizona claim they were given the trademark by an anonymous benefactor in September, shortly before Kanye unveiled his “White Lives Matter” shirts during Paris Fashion Week.
“Basically, a show listener—a big supporter—had the foresight to acquire this trademark and felt that we were in a much better position than they were to determine how it could be used for the benefit of Black and brown communities, rather than as a tool to cause additional harm to those communities,” Ja explained. “… We accepted this responsibility, and Civic Cypher LLC was assigned the trademark.”
Ja went on to say that no one in America can legally sell “White Lives Matter” merchandise without their permission. He stated that anyone attempting to profit from the phrase would have to enter into negotiations with their legal team and potentially face a lawsuit; however, Ja insisted that this is not something they want to do.
“I understand that one of two things could occur. Someone could approach our lawyer or us and say, ‘Hey, you have the sole right to manufacture and sell those clothes in the United States of America.’ “I’d like to purchase the trademark for millions of dollars,” Ja told Capital B News. “If we sold that trademark for any amount of money, we could donate that money to organizations that we believe would benefit Black people, such as the NAACP or Black Lives Matter.” Because, realistically, we cannot halt the production of the shirts right now. We can send cease and desist letters to people selling these shirts right now, but that is a huge undertaking that would necessitate teams of lawyers and thousands of dollars that we do not have.”
They also stated that they have not had any conversations with Kanye’s team and are unaware if his team attempted to contact them.
Ja told Capital said that he was disappointed but not surprised to see Kanye use the phrase.
“I try to remember the Kanye I knew in 2004 and 2005,” he told the publication. “The Kanye who said George Bush doesn’t care about African-Americans.” I have to concentrate on the fight at hand. … Right now, there are people running for office, and there are people attempting to suppress our vote and disenfranchise us. New voting laws are being drafted in Alabama and Mississippi, with ramifications across the country. I can’t spend my entire day worrying about what Kanye says.”