Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward, hosts of racial justice radio show Civic Cipher, decided to become the legal owners of the phrase to ensure that it didn’t end up in “the wrong hands”.
Ward told CNN the pair decided to purchase the trademark to the phrase “once it was clear that someone stood to gain significant profit from it, because as you’ve seen, even though he [West] says some really hurtful, divisive and sometimes crazy things, he has a bit of a zealot following and every time he releases something, it sells out.”
They said they hoped that “best-case scenario”, the phrase would drop out of use over the coming months, although they feared it had “staying power”.
The trademark was filed on the day West wore a T-shirt at his surprise Paris Fashion Week show with an image of Pope John Paul II on the front and the phrase written on the back. The garment caused several members of the audience to walk out of the show and sparked widespread criticism around the globe. However, the initial purchaser of the trademark, a listener of the pair’s radio show who wishes to remain anonymous, transferred it to Ja and Ward’s company, Civic Cipher LLC, weeks later.
By purchasing the trademark, they hoped to prevent anyone from potentially profiting off the term, which has been categorised as a hate slogan by the Anti-Defamation League. The phrase has been used by white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The trademark prevents anyone from selling any garments or other items bearing the phrase, meaning West will not be able to release the item shown in Paris.
The incident, and several anti-Semitic comments made by West in interviews in the weeks afterwards, have led to several high-profile brands, including adidas and Balenciaga, cutting ties with the rapper.