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Why Is a Punk Band Suing Mobb Deep Over Supreme T-Shirts?

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Mobb Deep is facing a lawsuit over a recent collaboration with streetwear brand Supreme. Filed by a New York City hardcore punk band Sick of It All, the suit claims that Mobb Deep members Havoc and the late Prodigy stole their dragon-shaped logo.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the band accused both Supreme and Mobb Deep of infringing its trademarks with a line of T-shirts launched this summer. The case claims that Mobb Deep’s emblem, featured on the shirts, is “virtually identical” to a logo that Sick of It All has used since 1987.

“This case arises out of defendants’ improper and illegal use of a nearly identical logo mark to plaintiff’s inherently distinctive, incontestable, and famous logo,” wrote lawyers for Bush Baby Zamagate Inc., the company that owns Sick of It All’s intellectual property. “Defendants’ adoption and use of their knockoff logo … is not just reckless and inexplicable — it is willful infringement and unfair competition.”

As defendants, the lawsuit named Chapter 4 Corp., the owner of Supreme; Kejuan Muchita Inc., a corporate entity owned by Havoc; and the estate of Prodigy (Albert Jackson Johnson), who died in 2017.

Back in June, when Supreme launched the Mobb Deep shirts, the website Hypebeast tried to explain the origins of the duo’s logo. The “tribal tattoo-style dragon,” the site claimed, had been “borrowed” from Sick of It All — “who, like Mobb Deep, is from Queens, New York.”

Turns out, Sick of It All doesn’t see the story quite the same way.

In Friday’s lawsuit, their lawyers say that, over the course of three decades, they have repeatedly demanded that Mobb Deep stop using the dragon design, first in 1997 and again in 2003. The new complaint included a copy of a cease-and-desist that the band sent in 2003, after a version of the dragon logo was used in an insert included in Mobb Deep’s Free Agents: The Murda Mixtape.

“This is not the first time that plaintiff has objected to Mobb Deep’s use of a logo substantially identical to plaintiff’s mark,” the new complaint reads. “Immediately prior to the institution of this lawsuit, plaintiff demanded that defendants cease use of their infringing logo and provide an accounting to plaintiff of sales of the infringing goods. Defendants refused to comply with those demands.”

In 2011, Mobb Deep spoke about the logo in an interview with clothing brand Mishka NYC. In it, Prodigy explained he basically picked the image off of a tattoo parlor wall when he was a teenager and got it inked to his hand.

“Basically, when I was 14 or 15, there was this tattoo parlor in Elmart off Hemstead turnpike and I had walked in there to get my first tattoo,” he said. “There was this dragon on the wall and I didn’t know what it was, I just thought it looked ill, I was mad young and I had always wanted something on my hand. I prolly seen it on some of those L.A. gang movies like Colors. I thought’d be cool, it’d look like some tough shit. So I told the dude put that on my hand. When me and Hav started Mobb Deep, we turned it into the lil clique thing.”

Prodigy went on to say, “We wanted to turn it into the logo for Mobb Deep, but, then we got a cease and desist letter in the mail…. That was just some random sh–! We didn’t even know, we was just young kids.”

Representatives for Supreme and Mobb Deep did not immediately return requests for comment.

Read the entire complaint here:

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