Soon after rapper Nipsey Hussle’s death in March, 2019 the LA Crips filed a trademark application for the slogan “THE MARATHON CONTINUES” under their holding company, Crips LLC. The rapper had been associated with the gang, and his death has prompted a focus on community work and gang prevention in Los Angeles from both the Crips and the Bloods.
On May 16, 2019 Crips LLC submitted the U.S. federal trademark application for services such as “arranging and conducting youth sports programs,” “entertainment services,” and “developing educational manuals for others in the field of community organizing.” According to the Crips, one major goal of filing this trademark application is to protect the trademark in connection with producing a documentary entitled The Marathon Continues to be released this summer to honor Nipsey Hussle’s activism and involvement in curbing street violence.
The holding companies of Crips LLC and Bloods LLC have joined forces recently to go “from banging to branding” as “is par the course of cultural evolution” according to representative Bryanna Jenkins. The gangs want to focus on rebranding and restating goals to introduce a sense of community between historically contentious groups. The ultimate goal of the two groups is to bring peace to the streets while maintaining the brotherhood of their respective organizations.
However, another person also wants to honor Nipsey Hussle’s memory using the trademark THE MARATHON CONTINUES: his brother, who goes by the name Blacc Sam. Blacc Sam (under his real name Samiel Asghedom) filed a trademark application for “THE MARATHON CONTINUES” on May 28, 2019. He has similar goals for the phrase, attempting to register the trademark for “providing entertainment services” and “providing motivational and educational speakers in the fields of social and emotional learning, philanthropy, citizenship, the promotion of public awareness of the need to do good,” among other services.
These trademark applications are in conflict, as both applicants cannot obtain the same trademark for similar goods and services. Although Blacc Sam and Crips LLC have only memorial and philanthropical activities in mind, both cannot honor Nipsey Hussle in the same way. So, the question is, who has a higher priority legal right to honor the rapper and represent a community effort towards peace with this trademark?
Nipsey Hussel has the rights to a mixtape titled “The Marathon Continues” as well as ownership of a retail clothing store called Marathon Clothing. He has not, however, used “The Marathon Continues” in connection with the charitable services he was involved in before his death. “It is possible for common law rights to a trademark phrase to transfer through one’s estate after death, if the rapper had used the name in connection with charity,” Trademark Attorney Nicholas Wells said. “However, because he never had common law rights in charitable services, the trademark rights for those services likely belong to whomever first filed a federal trademark application.”
Nipsey Hussel’s brother presumably has a stronger claim to ownership of assets in his estate, but it seems that Nipsey never had the trademark rights to begin with. Crips LLC, with a filing date just 12 days earlier than Blacc Sam, appears to have priority rights in the trademark THE MARATHON CONTINUES and will likely be the one to receive a registration, assuming other legal requirements of the process are fulfilled.
It will then be up to the two parties to decide whether both can share use of the trademark under an appropriate licensing agreement. If Crips LLC and Blacc Sam are willing to work together to memorialize the young rapper and activist, that option is still available to them.