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Five IP lessons from Kanye West

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Published Date: April 18, 2018

“Cars have four wheels. Hoodies have hoods. It’s amusing to me when someone says this is an original hoodie. Bro… it’s a hoodie @kanyewest

If you have opened Twitter at all this week you would have no doubt encountered Kanye West’s latest tweets. His tweets are coming thick and fast, covering his musings on everything from the political world order, consciousness, time and of particular interest to the IPLive team, creativity and intellectual property. In fact, he has said that this series of tweets is a book that he is writing in real time.

The tweets which I have embedded below give an indication of Kanye’s philosophy on creativity and intellectual property.




These tweets (or mini-chapters of his book) and Kanye’s commercial savvy has motivated me to come up with five IP lessons that we can learn from Kanye West.


My favourite Kanye album is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy which included collaborations with John Legend, Drake, Jay-Z, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Seal, Beyoncé, Kid Cudi, Bon Iver and Rihanna, to name but a few. When he collaborated with these megastars on his album he not only had his fans lining up around the corner to buy his album (or stand in a free wifi zone to download it), he also piqued the interest of the fans of all his guests on the album.

The collaborations which interested me most were the unusual ones such as Elton John, Seal and Bon Iver, who all come from very diverse musical genres.

Elton John, for example, played the piano and added his vocals to the mix on All Of The Lights below.



This will be my last My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy reference I promise.

My favourite track on the album is Lost In The World which features a sampled Bon Iver song titled Woods. The original Woods track was a track that did not even feature on a full-length Bon Iver album (it featured on the Blood Bank EP).

Kanye took the reasonably obscure Woods track and turned it into what he has acknowledged as being one of his most poetic.

As Kanye notes in his tweet above: “Feel free to take ideas and update them at your will all great artist take and update.”

It was after all Isaac Newton who said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”.


Kanye has been using the nickname Yeezy since 2009 and first used it commercially in collaboration with Nike. In 2015, Kanye then partnered the Yeezy brand with Adidas which has gone on to be one of the most sought-after sneaker brands internationally. The hype around this brand is phenomenal and GQ profiled Yeezys as The Most Influential Sneakers of 2016 and ‘one of the most covetable items in the world’.

Although Kanye is certainly not the first musician to license his brand out to a fashion/footwear label, the Adidas Yeezy’s have got to be one of the best examples of doing it properly.

Trade Marks

Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian are no strangers to understanding the commercial value of trade marks, they even trademarked their child’s name (although some nerds IP lawyers may suggest North West is not the most distinctive trade mark on earth).

He has registered Kanye, Kanye West, Yeezy and a number of other trade marks in a multitude of classes and will not allow other individuals to profit off his brands without his consent.


Going back to Kanye’s tweets which philosophise about creativity and intellectual property rights, what I find most impressive, is that he actually thinks about these things. Kanye clearly has an open-sourced, sharing philosophy which has opened up doors for him to collaborate with others, remix old songs and licence his brand into different markets.

While his philosophy may resonate easily with other musicians, it does not necessarily provide a silver-bullet for those in other industries who may face different challenges.

I think the number one lesson that anyone can take from Kanye, is that you or your business should have a philosophy relating to innovation and creativity. And do not be afraid to nail your colours to the mast.


Photos by Reinhart Julian and Sebastian Pociecha on Unsplash


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