In the world of Kim Kardashian West, emojis could be worth millions.
A new lawsuit seeks to sue Kardashian West and her company, Kimsaprincess Inc., $300 million over emoji and other images of the reality show celebrity. In a suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Oklahoma City, the developer alleges that he and two others teamed up with Kardashian West to create Kimoji designs and merchandising. Now they’re claiming that Kardashian West ran away with the trademark and never shared the profits.
“We want to be compensated for what we would have made with Kimoji,” David Liebensohn, the plaintiff, told The Washington Post. “She sold out of this, sold out of that. Every time you’d see that, it was something related to Kimoji.”
In a statement, Kardashian West’s lawyer, Marty Singer, said the lawsuit was “ridiculous and absurd.” Singer said all parties entered into a binding settlement agreement in 2014, at which point Kardashian West gave up multimillion dollar claims against Liebensohn and his parents. Liebensohn then waited four years to claim the agreement wasn’t binding. Kardashian West began an arbitration in December, Singer said, “and after Mr. Liebensohn was unsuccessful in stopping the arbitration he filed this meritless lawsuit.”
“We feel very confident we will get the case dismissed,” Singer said.
In 2014, Liebensohn and two others, Narayan Shankar and Daniel Rice, founded their company App Social, which created social media applications. One of their apps, CensorGram, helped social media users protect their accounts from bullying, spammers and trolls on Instagram. Users could filter and delete comments or users they didn’t want. The app’s name was later changed to CensorOut.
Kardashian West liked CensorGram and reached out to App Social to talk about a potential investment. Together they talked on the phone and met in California in July 2014. Liebensohn, Shankar and Rice brought up another one of their apps, which designed the “sexy” emoji. They pitched Kimoji — animated emoji and GIFs of the Kardashian family. The emoji now include dozens of icons of Kardashian’s famous bottom, a stiletto, a Bentley, manicured nails and more.
Kardashian West latched onto the idea and said she would file the Kimoji trademark herself to spare App Social the cost, according to the lawsuit. The Kimoji trademark includes phone cases, bathing suits, flip flops, T-shirts and other merchandise. The app launched in 2015.
The group decided they would split the profits of Kimoji, with 60 percent going to Liebensohn and his colleagues, and 40 percent to Kardashian West. (Last year, Forbes estimated Kardashian West’s net worth at $350 million.)
The lawsuit says that after she filed the Kimoji trademark, Kardashian West said in August 2014 that she was upset that Shankar had circulated an image including personal information about her use of CensorOut. Kardashian West used the image as a reason to cancel the partnership, according to the lawsuit.
Liebensohn said that this year, he learned Kardashian West knew about Shankar’s image before she agreed to team up on Kimoji. He said he believes Kardashian West held onto the image until after filing the trademark so she could have Kimoji for herself.
“We decided the only way to get this out in the open is in federal court,” Liebensohn said.
The lawsuit also accuses Kardashian West of fraud, saying she never intended to share the profits from Kimoji. Liebensohn is requesting a jury trial.
“The purpose of the lawsuit is to obtain Oklahoma justice,” said Liebensohn’s attorney, Robert J. Hantman, “as Liebensohn received zero money and Kardashian West made a fortune.”