MANHATTAN (CN) – The Second Circuit gave poor marks Thursday to a Bronx designer who says Jay-Z owes him royalties for the Roc-A-Fella logo and product lines.
“The problem that you have is that this case has a real stench to it,” U.S. Circuit Judge Barrington Parker said this morning as attorney Gregory Berry urged the federal appeals court to revive the suit his client, Dwayne Walker Jr., filed in 2012.
Walker claims that he had a contract decades ago with Jay-Z’s label Roc-A-Fella Records to design and license the logo for $3,500 cash and 2 percent of all revenues made from the sale of items.
But Jay-Z’s attorney Eleanor Lackman told the Second Circuit that there was never any contract and that Walker filed false claims to the U.S. Copyright Office.
“Nobody ever said that the contract existed,” Lackman said. “We think the whole thing is a bit of a sham.”
U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter found little evidence of the agreement either, but he dismissed the lawsuit in 2016 under statute of limitations.
“Defendants do not admit to the existence of the writing,” the 32-page opinion states. “And the testimony presented by plaintiff of the alleged writing is alternately contradictory, self-serving, and not based on first-hand knowledge.”
Carter stopped short, however, of slapping sanctions against Walker and his legal team.
Roc-A-Fella’s attorney Cynthia Arato argued Thursday, however, that the suit was the “poster-client case” for sanctions.
U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, sitting by designation from the Eastern District of New York, noted that Walker’s suit survived a motion to dismiss.
“It wasn’t facially frivolous,” Matsumoto said.
Defending his advocacy, Walker noted that the lawsuit was dismissed for reasons other than merit.
“The case was dismissed on the narrow ground of statute of limitations,” Berry said.
The three-judge panel reserved ruling on the matter.