There was some news yesterday that Will.I.am of the Black Eyed Peas “sued” Pharrell Williams, one of my favorite producers and member of N.E.R.D. and The Neptunes, over the I AM OTHER brand. If you have never heard of N.E.R.D. and are looking for some new music, seriously check out N.E.R.D.’s first album – “In Search Of….”
I Am Other Entertainment, founded by Pharrell, applied for the mark I AM OTHER with respect to various goods and services. Will.I.am owns several registrations for the mark WILL.I.AM, has a registration for I AM for apparel, and has applied for the mark I AM in connection with other goods and services. The last time I saw Will.I.am and Pharrell go head-to-head was when the Black Eyed Peas open for N.E.R.D. at The Rave in Milwaukee in 2004 (Pharrell 1, Will.I.am 0).
Entertainment news reports of trademark or copyright issues often present a lot of misinformation about the law. One major music magazine claimed that Pharrell was being sued regarding his new brand name by Will.I.am for a “copyright” claim, which I suppose Will.I.Am correctly denied. Another article stated that Will.I.am was not suing Pharrell and that Will.I.am’s lawyers dismissed claims of a dispute but that it was an easily resolved trademark dispute. How calling it a trademark dispute dismisses claims of a dispute is interesting. Will.I.am himself has denied suing Pharrell on Twitter:
The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. Even if he does not want to admit it on Twitter, Will.I.am has opposed the registration of I Am Other Entertainment’s trademarks. Opposing registration is procedurally akin to a lawsuit, with the desire to stop the other party from registering (and using) their applied-for mark. There is a complaint (called a “notice of opposition”), an answer, discovery, trial testimony and ultimately a decision as to whether the mark will register or be administratively abandoned. The major difference is that an opposition proceeding occurs within the Trademark Office at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, while litigation usually occurs in court.
Will.I.am may not be a party to a lawsuit, he certainly can tweet #iamopposer. We’ll see if he’ll be able to tweet #iamwinner when this comes to a conclusion.
Will.I.am does own a registration for I AM with respect to apparel, a mark which is wholly incorporated into Pharrell’s I AM OTHER trademark, which Pharrell has applied for with respect to apparel. But there are many registered marks that incorporate I AM for use with apparel that could be problematic for Will.I.am, including the recently registered I AM. & Design mark. As for WILL.I.AM versus I AM OTHER, it will be tougher for Will.I.am to convince the Trademark Office there is a likelihood of confusion in the marks which differ in sight, sound and meaning. Hopefully, with the attention given to this, the two can reach an amicable agreement.
If not, maybe next they can start another “non-dispute” over each other’s hand gestures…