Kanye West is locked into a high-profile business dispute with a corporate giant — and this time he didn’t start it, and experts are baffled.
The famously eccentric rapper — who over the past year has pointed barbs at Gap and Adidas for not putting him on their boards, despite lucrative business relationships with both companies — has meanwhile landed in a bizarre trademark dispute with Walmart.
On April 21, the world’s biggest retailer claimed in a filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office that the new "rays from a sun" logo created for the "Flashing LIghts" singer’s Yeezy brand is so similar to Walmart’s 13-year-old spark symbol that consumers might confuse them.
Specifically, Walmart argued that the new Yeezy logo — comprised of eight dotted lines emanating from a circle — is too similar to its sun logo comprised of six solid lines around a circle. Unless blocked, it will cause consumer "confusion and deception" and "dilute" Walmart’s brand, the retailer said.
But trademark experts are skeptical. Walmart is a mass-market retailer famous for its massive stores filled with discounted goods. A Fruit of the Loom sweatshirt on Walmart costs $7.44. A Yeezy hoodie for men, meanwhile, goes for $350 on Farfetch.
Indeed, Yeezy’s merch has lately amassed a reputation for distinction that’s matched by few others even in the luxury space. A pair of Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 sneakers sold for $1.8 million at Sotheby’s auction last month — becoming the most expensive pair of shoes in history.
"The idea that Yeezy would deliberately associate itself with Walmart to get a free ride on Walmart’s [reputation] — I don’t see it," said Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute, told The Post. "Yeezy’s coattails are pretty stylish."
Walmart’s opposition is a "reach," scoffed one legal expert who asked not to be named. "Yeezy doesn’t want their goods in Walmart and doesn’t want to be confused with Walmart."
More importantly, the US Patent and Trademark Office in December signaled its plans to approve the mark by publishing it in the Trademark Official Gazette. That means the agency had an examiner look at the potentially thousands of similarly described registered marks to make sure Yeezy’s logo didn’t infringe on any of them, experts said.
"It’s more likely that the examiner saw the Walmart mark and decided that the consumer could tell the difference between the two," Scafidi said.
"An examiner has to find no evidence of conflicting logos before publication," agreed Brown Rudnick trademark attorney Jason Sobel.
According to a source close to the patent dispute, "it took a year for the trademark office" to OK the logo for publication after Yeezy first filed for the patent on Jan. 3, 2020. "It went through some back and forth, but the government never brought up the Walmart marks," this person said.
Walmart filed its official complaint last month after trying to negotiate the matter with Yeezy on five different occasions starting in July, as The Post has previously reported.
But said Scafidi, "The majority of marks that are published for opposition are ultimately registered."
Walmart sees it differently.
"Walmart has repeatedly sought to understand Yeezy’s planned use of the Yeezy Application, with the goal of finding ways in which the Walmart Spark Design and the Yeezy Application can co-exist with one another," the retailer wrote in a letter to Yeezy’s trademark attorney, Robert Rose on April 19.
"However, to date, we have not received any conclusive information from Yeezy regarding the planned use or any cooperation from Yeezy in order to find common ground."
According to government filings, Yeezy has until May 31 to respond.