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Pharrell Williams faces legal battle from Chad Hugo over The Neptunes trademark

Hugo has accused his former bandmate of “fraudulently” seeking sole control over the trademark

  • WORDS: BECKY BUCKLE | PHOTO: SCREENGRAB/CBS YOUTUBE
  • 3 April 2024
Pharrell Williams faces legal battle from Chad Hugo over The Neptunes trademark

Pharrell Williams has been accused of “fraudulently” seeking sole control over The Neptunes trademark, by his former songwriting partner and friend Chad Hugo.

Billboard reports that representatives for Hugo made a filing yesterday (April 1) at a federal tribunal, accusing Pharrell of attempting to register the trademark without consulting his former The Neptunes partner.

The attorney adds that if Pharrell has allegedly attempted to do this, it reportedly violates their longstanding agreement to split everything equally.

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The Neptunes are widely regarded as one of the most influential producer duos in popular music, working with a huge roster of artists which saw them in 2003 having produced 43% of tracks played on US radio.

This same year, the pair released the ‘Clones’ compilation album, which featured the likes of Busta Rhymes, Nelly, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg and Kelis.

The childhood friends were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022, and are best known for their work on Nelly’s ‘Hot in Herre’, Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’, Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ and many more.

“Throughout their over thirty-year history, [Hugo] and Williams agreed to, and in fact, have divided all assets,” wrote Hugo’s attorney Kenneth D. Freundlich, according to Billboard.

Freundlich continued: “By ignoring and excluding [Hugo] from the any and all applications filed by applicant for the mark ‘The Neptunes,’ applicant has committed fraud in securing the trademarks and acted in bad faith.”

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A representative for Pharrell shared the following statement with Billboard: “Pharrell is surprised by this. We have reached out on multiple occasions to share in the ownership and administration of the trademark and will continue to make that offer. The goal here was to make sure a third party doesn’t get a hold of the trademark and to guarantee Chad and Pharrell share in ownership and administration.”

In a statement to Billboard, Freundlich added: “If Pharrell’s intent was to include Chad in the filing, he should have registered it in the name of them jointly or as a partnership and not in his own name,” he said. “This was a land grab in a long-simmering dispute that has yet to be resolved.”

The dispute is reportedly over three separate applications to register the trademark which are said to be one covering the use of the name on streaming music, another for music videos and other content, and a third covering live performances.

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Hugo’s attorneys have claimed that Pharrell had “knowingly and intentionally” filed those applications without Hugo despite being “fully aware”, adding: “Nothing, either written or oral, provided Williams or [PW IP Holdings] with the unilateral authority to register the trademarks.”

Since then, Hugo’s attorneys have said that they’ve “repeatedly” contacted Pharrell’s team on the issue and alleged that his lawyers “admitted that [Hugo] is equal co-owner of the trademarks” and promised to include him.

As previously mentioned, last week's filings are based on three recent trademark applications however, Hugo's attorney warns that there could be “future legal action” surrounding the trademark registrations to have them "voided."

[Via: Billboard]

Becky Buckle is Mixmag's Multimedia Editor, follow her on Twitter

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