Jay-Z has successfully halted a $204 million lawsuit over the lack of black arbitrators in the US.
The trademark dispute is between Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and clothing company Iconix, who bought his label Rocawear in 2007. The rapper and business mogul has produced merchandise with Roc Nation, a move that Iconix claims violates the terms of the Rocawear sale.
This is not the first time that Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, has clashed with Iconix over the purchase of Rocawear. In 2015, they agreed to address future claims in private arbitration.
The disagreement led to both parties being asked to each hire four arbitrators – independent people who decide the outcome of a dispute before it is taken to court.
However, Jay-Z found that only three of roughly 200 members of the American Arbitration Association identify as African American. One of those three arbitrators is already representing Iconix in the dispute.
As reported in The Guardian, Jay-Z’s legal team filed a petition in manhattan Supreme Court, arguing that the lack of racial diversity “deprives litigants of colour of a meaningful opportunity to have their claims heard by a panel of arbitrators reflecting their backgrounds and life experience”.
The petition said the lack of black arbitrators was discriminatory under New York’s state constitution and a New York City human rights law.
Jay-Z’s team also argued that white arbitrators have an “unconscious bias” towards black defendants, stating that the situation would “deprive black litigants like Mr Carter and his companies of the equal protection of the laws”.
The petition was successful and Justice Saliann Scarpulla has halted the arbitration until December 11.