Burberry is suing Jesus. Ok, not the real one — the rapper Burberry Jesus. But still! The Chicago-based rapper has been accused by Burberry of engaging in “willful trademark infringement and dilution of the famous Burberry trademarks, as well as copyright infringement of Burberry’s copyright-protected design.” His stage name and various elements of his branding have come under scrutiny.
This isn’t the first time a well-known brand has sued over the right to their name. Most famously, Cardi B battled Bacardi for two years in a bid to use her stage name, inspired by her childhood nickname Bacardi. The rapper struggled to earn the rights to her stage name after the court suspended and threw out her case multiple times, though now she’s pulled through successfully. It doesn’t look like this case will go as well for Burberry Jesus. In 2016, the luxury brand actually sued Atlanta-based rapper and producer Perry Moise, who previously operated under the stage name Burberry Perry. Seeing as he doesn’t go by that name anymore, you can guess how the case went.
Logo lawsuit — Burberry alleges that Burberry Jesus, whose real name is Marvel Yarbrough, is infringing its world-famous trademarks. According to the brand’s newly-filed suit, Yerbrough “adopted ‘Burberry Jesus’ as his stage name — which he often shortens to 'Burberry'– with an intent to replicate the Burberry brand and copy its well-known trademarks that have been used exclusively and continuously by Burberry and its authorized licensees for more than 160 years.”
As The Fashion Law reports, the luxury brand also claims Yarbrough has used the Burberry name to promote his music, garner media attention, and create a growing fan base. Basically, they’re accusing him of using the Burberry name for clout, but this doesn’t seem to be a flex they want to back.
Though Yarbrough has written he has no affiliation with Burberry in his Instagram bio, that doesn’t seem to be enough for the brand. Mainly because despite Yarbrough’s IG buffer, the rapper has continued to post photos of himself in Burberry clothes and merchandise, and has included Burberry’s trademark check pattern on his digital album covers and social media profile pictures. Oh, and he drives a car wrapped in Burberry’s copyright-protected TB monogram print.
Fair warning — Yarbrough can’t say he wasn’t warned. Prior to filing this suit, Burberry says it took “extensive efforts” to put a stop to the rapper’s infringement. In what it calls an “amicable” manner, the brand sent “nearly a dozen” cease and desist letters to the rapper since December 2019. All this reminds me of is that Harry Potter scene where Uncle Vernon tries to ignore all those Hogwarts letters. And how did that turn out?
In addition to ignoring said letters, Burberry claims that ten days after it sent its first cease and desist letter to him, Yarbrough went so far as to “surreptitiously file a request in the Circuit Court of Cook County to improperly change his legal name from Marvel Yarbrough to Burberry Jesus.” The name change won’t protect him from liability, if anything, it’s an admission of guilt.
So what did Burberry Jesus do next? After a failed attempt of getting Burberry to sponsor him, the rapper allegedly told the luxury label he had “remedied the issue on all platforms.” Clearly, by the state of this lawsuit, he had not.
Burberry billing — Looks like there’ll be no Easter for this Jesus. Burberry has set forth claims of federal trademark infringement and dilution, false designation of origin, trademark dilution under common law and Illinois’ Trademark Registration and Protection Act, violations of Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and copyright infringement, among others. The luxury brand is also seeking monetary damages to be determined at trial, and injunctive relief to permanently prevent Yarbrough from further infringing its rights. Yikes. I guess the least we can do for the guy is stream him on Spotify, though we can’t say he wasn’t warned.