The phony Vogue cover was one of several bizarre fake promos for the album, which debuted Friday. The stars also pumped an appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk as well as an interview on the The Howard Stern Show – both of which later turned out to not be real.
In a complaint filed Monday in New York federal court, the publisher’s lawyers called the stunt a “flagrant infringement” of the company’s trademark rights, aimed at exploiting the “tremendous value that a cover feature in Vogue magazine carries” without actually securing that honor.
“All of this is false,” the publisher’s lawyers wrote, demanding an immediate injunction forcing Drake and 21 to cease all use of the “counterfeit” cover. “And none of it has been authorized by Condé Nast.”
A representative for Drake declined to comment on the allegations on Tuesday. A rep for 21 Savage did not immediately return a request for comment.
Condé seemed particularly angered by Drake’s Instagram post teasing the fake cover story, in which he personally thanked famed Vogue editor Anna Wintour: “Me and my brother on newsstands tomorrow!! Thanks @voguemagazine and Anna Wintour for the love and support on this historic moment.”
“Vogue magazine and its Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour have had no involvement in Her Loss or its promotion, and have not endorsed it in any way,” the company’s lawyers wrote. “Nor did Condé Nast authorize, much less support, the creation and widespread dissemination of a counterfeit issue of Vogue, or a counterfeit version of perhaps one of the most carefully curated covers in all of the publication business.”
The publisher’s lawyers said such a post “deliberately mimicked” the way actual Vogue cover stories are promoted by the stars who grace the cover. And they claim it worked as intended, causing numerous media outlets to report that Drake and 21 would be featured on Vogue: “The confusion among the public is unmistakable.”
In the lawsuit ahead, Drake and 21 might argue that their faux-media blitz was intended as a parody of the way that media outlets and artists work together to promote the launch of a new album. Such spoofs are sometimes legally able to use protected trademarks as a means of skewering the subjects.
But Condé’s lawsuit says the covers were instead aimed purely at free-riding on the promotional value of a Vogue cover. They noted the “explicitly false statements” about Wintour, and how little had been changed from an actual Vogue issue in the fake magazines distributed around the country.
“The counterfeit magazine itself reveals that it is a complete, professionally reprinted reproduction of the October issue of Vogue, with unauthorized adaptations made in service of promoting defendants’ album,” the publisher wrote. “The counterfeit cover … provides no indication that it is anything other than the cover of an authentic Vogue issue.”
Notably, the lawsuit also named as a defendant Hiltzik Strategies, Drake’s public relations agency, over its alleged role in the publicity stunt. The agency did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.