Attorneys for Will.i.am Pharrell Williams are in a heated exchange over trademarks will.i.am owns and trademark applications by Williams. At issue is who has the right to use the words “I Am” and how they can use it.
The events leading up to the public dispute started over 12 months ago when Williams filed eight registrations covering the use of “I Am Other” in various consumer goods and services. Will.i.am, whose real name is William Adams, owns the trademark for “I Am,” used in his clothing line, and “Will.I.Am,” used in entertainment, consumer electronic products and will.i.am’s philanthropic endeavors.
A recent report at Rolling Stone said will.i.am had taken legal action against Pharrell Williams over the name of Williams’ i am OTHER venture that includes musicians, a branded YouTube channel, a Brooklyn-based bicycle manufacturer and a company that makes yarns and fabrics from recycled plastic bottles.
“I am disappointed that Will, a fellow artist, would file a case against me,” Williams said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “I am someone who likes to talk things out and, in fact, I attempted to do just that on many occasions.”
Not so, says will.i.am’s attorney, Ken Hertz. He tells Billboard will.i.am has merely filed a routine opposition to Williams’ applications after his team ran out of time to broker an agreement. An opposition needed to be filed six months after the publication of Williams’ application, according to Hertz.
There are differing stories on what happened before the notice of opposition was filed. In a statement to Billboard, Williams’ attorney, Brad Rose, reiterated his earlier claim that will.i.am “has obstructed every overture” Williams has made to resolve the mater and refutes Hertz’s claim that will.i.am’s team has engaged in a dialogue. “Even to this day, nobody in Will’s camp has reached out to resolve this matter notwithstanding Mr. Hertz” public statements that such contact has been made.”
Hertz tells Billboad he was happy to discuss “a very specific, limited right” for Williams to use to “I Am Other” under “very specific, non-competitive circumstances.” He notes that Williams’’ applications covers a use the term “I Am Other” in cosmetics, musical sound recordings, jewelry, clothing and many other classes of goods and services.
After the two sides failed to reach an agreement, will.i.am’s team followed a routine course of action, says Hertz. “We did what we’re allowed to do, which is object to those applications.” The filing claims Williams’ “proposed mark is confusingly similar” to will.i.am’s registered marks. In addition, it argues the services Williams proposes to offer are similar to those offered by will.i.am, which include clothing and entertainment.
Rose counters that will.i.am “misguidedly believes that he has the sole right to the words I AM in commerce, notwithstanding the myriad of I Am compound trademarks that coexist on the trademark register and in the marketplace.”