You 'jacked' my trademark, Kingston rapper scolds Coca-Cola
Brendan Richmond, aka B. Rich, had 12M views on his Out for a Rip video before legal demand to Coke
A rapper from Kingston, Ont., has taken to YouTube to demand Coca-Cola stop jacking his catchphrase for a promotion on their bottles.
Brendan Richmond, who uses the name B. Rich when he performs, found a Coke bottle with the phrase "Out for a Rip" printed on it in a Toronto grocery store last May.
"It's kind of neat to see a thing that I created and here it is on this iconic product," he said. "But then, on the other side of it, it's a total bummer. Because that's my thing and nobody asked me if it was OK to go ahead and use that."
Richmond published the music video for Out for a Rip on YouTube in November 2013 and it has more than 12 million views.
Feeling like Coca-Cola had used his words, he decided to respond in-character with a new video, Out for a Sip, which he used to demand that the soft drink giant stop using his catchphrase.
"I just felt the need to tell this story and to do it in a way that suited my style," he said.
Toronto-based intellectual property lawyer Rob Kittredge said Richmond's plan to respond by music video was hatched over beers and admits it's "sort of an unusual way to do a demand letter."
"We're going to follow up with Coke just to draw their attention to it, but I suspect their attention is already drawn to it," Kittredge said.
"Demand letters are typically private letters between lawyers for companies. This is more vague than a demand letter would typically be just because it's public. Otherwise, it's essentially the same."
Kittredge, who appears in the video as lawyer John Buddy, filed the trademark for "Out for a Rip" on behalf of Richmond in 2014 and it was registered in April 2016. It applies to musical work and performances, as well as merchandise such as mugs, beer cozies and clothing.
"He's not asserting ownership of the phrase overall, but he's the reason there's a connection in people's heads between the phrase 'out for a rip' and music. Coke is doing a promotion right now that relates directly to online music," Kittredge said.
That association is the main issue in the claim, he said.
Richmond said it's concerning that someone would use his phrase without respecting the trademark or asking for a licence.
"It just kind of sets a not-very-good precedent that an independent artist could have his things applied to other products when it's not really how it should go," Richmond said.
Kittredge said Richmond may have considered a licence, but there is also a principle in raising the issue.
"You would think a company like Coke could find it in its budget to negotiate a licence with a musician that clearly has rights to a phrase that they're planning on using," he said.
In the video, B. Rich outlines several conditions for settlement including a truckload of Coke, Toronto Maple Leafs and Blue Jays tickets and a trip to see family in Saskatoon, but his lawyer was less candid about what they might seek from the company.
Kittredge said he expects the dispute to be resolved in a friendly way, without a need for trial, though he hasn't heard back from Coca-Cola.
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola told CBC News the company is aware of the video and is reviewing it.
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