Will.I.Am Claims Trademark in "I Am." (Jehovah, Popeye, and Neil Diamond Lawyer Up.)

Black Eyed Peas performer and public nuisance Will.I.Am. files trademark claim against noted hip-hop producer/performer Pharrell Williams for a peculiar reason, Rolling Stone reports:

Will.i.am is taking legal action against Pharrell Williams over the latter's new creative brand "i am OTHER" – claiming that he owns the copyright [sic--actual claim seems to be trademark] to the phrase "I AM" and that Pharrell's logo is "confusingly similar," according to court documents obtained by Rolling Stone.

Photo credit: HighTechDad / Foter.com / CC BYPhoto credit: HighTechDad / Foter.com / CC BY

In his notice of opposition, will.i.am argues that Pharrell would be using his "i am OTHER" brand on clothing and other items in a manner similar to the goods that bear his own "I AM" logo. "The registration of the mark . . . is likely to dilute the I AM mark and the WILL.I.AM mark," the document reads.

Lawyers for Pharrell and "i am OTHER" filed an answer to will.i.am's notice of opposition, denying all such claims.

Will.I.Am's lawyer comments to Wall Street Journal:

What will.i.am has done is what any trademark owner must do to protect and maintain a trademark. Our client is following the standard procedures of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to defend trademarks that have been registered and that he has used widely and continuously for many years. This is a run-of-the-mill trademark procedure that has been going on since late last year.

will.i.am has registered several trademarks, including “I AM”, which is also emphasized in, and a significant element of, his professional and trademarked name. He has been using the “I AM” mark in connection with various goods, services and philanthropic activities for more than a decade. Furthermore, our client is in the process of registering other marks that include the words “I AM” – and building a family of “I AM” marks....

Reason on trademark silliness.

(Hat tip: Boing Boing.)

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  • cw||

    Given the lefty tendencies of the BEP, it's amusing to see one of its own embrace a twisted form of private property.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I am amused by this...oh, wait, now I am going to get a cease and desist!

  • A Serious Man||

    I do not like these trade mark scams
    I do not like it will.i.am.

  • robc||

    I was coming in to point out that Sam had a valid claim too.

  • Juice||

    I wish I could upvote this.

  • ||

    Well, this is a remarkably stupid story. But then again, it does involve the Black Eyed Peas, so it's inevitable that it would be stupid. You know, I'm feeling masochistic. I think I'll go watch their Superbowl performance again while injecting two liters of saline into my scrotum.

  • Brett L||

    All I remember is thinking that if Slash is really that hard up for money, we should take up a collection.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    This is great.

  • John||

    Yeah. Man Axel must have really fucked him over.

  • Calidissident||

    That was by far the worst Super Bowl halftime performance I've ever seen. Just by comparison to that one, I don't think I can ever be disappointed in a Super Bowl halftime show ever again

  • Loki||

    The last Super Bowl halftime show I watched was the year they had Aerosmith, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys (or was in N Sync? I can never keep them straight).

    After winding up in a fetal position on the floor vomiting my guts out and screaming "Make it stop, for the love of God, make it stop!" less than halfway through, I've sworn off Super Bowl halftime shows. I still occasionally get PTSD flashbacks from it.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Future Super Bowl organizers: "Challenge accepted!"

  • John||

    I remember various young people bitching and moaning about the Rolling Stones and the Who playing and it being so bad to have old people and they needed young acts. They were all so happy when it was going to be the Black Eyed Peas, because they were so cool and young (of course they really weren't that young)

    And then it turned out that the Peas were total clowns who can't sing, play their instruments or play live and were worse than even the Who were.

    I think we owe them a debt for living up to every negative stereotype about pop acts in the 00s.

  • RBS||

    The Super Bowl people should start hiring bands that actually perform live more than a handful of times a year.

  • John||

    Prince was good. U2 was good. The Rolling Stones were good. But all of those people were at the time on a tour and working acts.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    The famous one with Janet Jackson was up there in being terrible. Not because of the wardrobe malfunction, just at how awful it was. It was like MTV threw up.

  • RBS||

    I should amend that to say "only hire bands..." Basically stop hiring gimmicky pop stars.

  • John||

    I thought Beyonce was horrible. Why do I know here name? She is famous because????

  • Zeb||

    I dunno. She can actually sing, though. But so can a million other people who are not famous.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Think about it. The best singer on Earth. The best guitarist. The best pianist. The most attractive woman and man. Probably not a single one of those is famous.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I say they just hire local bar bands.

  • Calidissident||

    And I know of ton of young people who thought the Black Eyed Peas were going to suck and were not surprised when they did.

  • JW||

    You're up to 2 liters now? This shows why it's important to have goals.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    What about "What I Am"?

  • Zeb||

    If he was calling it Pharrell.i.am, there might be a case, but it seems a bit absurd to be able to trademark what is probably the most common two word combination in spoken English.

  • Lord Humungus||

  • Number 2||

    Enough of this. I am going back to ...OOOPS!!!!

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Hey, random question.

    Who do you work for?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    That would be telling?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Piss on you, I'm working for Mel Brooks!

  • LTC(ret) John||

    +1 Not in in the face!

  • Mainer2||

    +1 Slim Pickens

  • Mike M.||

    This is the most ridiculous trademark claim since Microsoft tried to patent the numbers one and zero.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    It wouldn't have surprised me to find out that this was an Onion article as well...

    It's actually kind of sad that I've had to check the source of more than one recent article to make sure the submitter just didn't realize that The Onion is satire.

  • robc||

    Most ridiculous since Magic Hat v West 6th over the use of an "inverted nine".

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    I think Apple trying to patent "a rectangle with rounded corners" goes up there pretty high on the list.

  • robc||

    But that was earlier than the Magic Hat case.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    True, I really didn't pay attention to the "since" part. I was just going on raw ridiculousness.

  • Calidissident||

    Well I hope will.i.am loses. God that guy is a douche, has no case, and the Black Eyed Peas are terrible. And Pharrell has at least made decent music at some point in his life.

  • Killazontherun||

    Jehovah was not available for comment.

  • ||

    I go see Dick Dale play every year. The year that "Pump It" (BEP song featuring Dale's "Misirlou") came out, Dick said something about how he had a #1 song with the BEP. The whole audience booed. Don't think ol' Dick was expecting that!

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    I go see Dick Dale play every year

    Jealous. He always comes in town when I'm out of town or otherwise booked.

  • ||

    You must try to see him ASAP! He's old and has cancer - every year I see him, I always assume it's for the last time.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    GOD DAMMIT ALL! He's coming to town the 20th of July... I have a family wedding to attend that day. Fuck it, my cousin won't miss me... maybe

  • ||

    Why not drive over to Shittsburgh for the show the next day?

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    I'd have to go to shittsburgh, then... Quite the dilema, weighing my love for Dick with my hate for pitstainsburgh.

    DAMMIT DICK! Why'd you have to get cancer? *grumble grumble*

  • Ted S.||

    Have you stopped to consider that Dick Dale is trying to avoid you? :-)

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Psh, ONE little restraining order for stalking and improper touching and a guy arranges his whole touring schedule to screw you out of a great performance.

    Sheesh, what a jerk. BUT I STILL LOVE YOU, DICK DALE!

  • Killazontherun||

    Makes you wonder how they became media darlings in the first place. I don't know a single fan but I know many people who loathe them.

  • John||

    Music media is the worst. Worse than political media. It is driven by the worst sort of white, PC driven, hipster douche bags. BEP was basically designed to appeal to those kind of people.

  • Ted S.||

    Worse than sports media? They're pretty PC too.

  • John||

    More smug. Sports media at least admit they are dorks.

  • RBS||

    I don't know, Rick Reilly has plenty of smug to go around. See also: Peter King and anybody at ESPN.

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure the abysmal Superbowl performance put the final nails in their coffin. Also, Fergie got old. Older.

  • Zeb||

    My theory is that most people don't actually like music. They just want something with a beat they can dance to, or that they can play in the background. That's why the best selling stuff is so puzzling.

  • Metazoan||

    That's why people are puzzled at my favorite genre, I suppose (ambient), since it often lacks a beat.

  • RBS||

    You just described my wife.

  • Ted S.||

    My theory is that most people don't actually like music.

    The rest of us like JS Bach.

  • Mainer2||

    Ah....Bach

  • Pro Libertate||

    Come on, Radar.

  • Pro Libertate||

    In prehistory, music was a guy beating your head with a rock. That's how music was invented. It was so prevalent than we've evolved to enjoy the beat.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I'm not sure this is a big deal, since even if the trademark were to be recognized there would have to be an actual showing that Pharrell's use of his similar mark to identify goods creates a likelihood of confusion. I can certainly imagine "I am other" logos and/or uses that would be a dishonest piggybacking on the logo used by WillIAM on some of his products.

    It wouldn't mean that WillIAM 'owned' the words "I AM" in any real way.

  • Aresen||

    Not Spartacus am I.

  • John||

    I think we need to just get the government out of IP law.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Without the government how would there be any 'law' to IP?

  • tarran||

    There wouldn't.

    Leave it to the government to create artificial scarcity that throttles art, engineering, commerce and science in the name of promoting it.

    It's like those guys in Tolkien's mythologies who created the orcs as a twisted imitation of the elves.

  • Metazoan||

    It would, admittedly, be pretty difficult to develop pharmaceuticals without IP.

  • tarran||

    Actually it would be pretty easy.

    Research would be funded by groups like the Easter Seals or the March of Dimes as charitable exercises, and the most successful, efficacious drugs would be sold at approximately 5% of what they cost now.

    I've done some consulting work related to analyzing discovery in lawsuits where drug trials were part of the evidence. IP law is incentivising companies to sell products not based on their efficacy, but based on how patentable they are. And all the bad behavior has, at its source, the incentives created by the U.S. government's protocols for issuing patents of monopoly.

  • tarran||

    For example, I had a conversation with an estate/elder-care lawyer who couldn't believe that Abilify was an anti-psychotic, since so many of the elderly people whose families hired her were taking it as an anti-depressant.

    The use of Abilify as an anti-depressant has very little to do with its efficacy, and everything to do with lengthening the patent of monopoly.

  • Metazoan||

    I don't believe that charitable funding is sufficient for all pharma research. I understand that charity would be much better-off in the absence of an enormous government, but even if we assume that all NIH funding for drug research is replaced by charity, there's still the enormous amount spent by pharma. Taking away patentability removes much of the incentive for pharma to pitch in what it does.

    Then there are more fundamental questions in pharma research, such has methods for designing drugs, and in an IP free world, there would be precious little incentive for anything beyond charity in this field (again, I really don't think it would cover the costs of researching the basics of drug discovery/design).

    As to the use of anti-psychotics for depression, that's not too uncommon, though it's not my field so I can't say much of anything.

  • robc||

    Of course, in a world without an FDA, getting a drug to market is much cheaper.

    And there still are trade secrets, so you have some time before the competition makes a similar product. Maybe even longer than the patent period.

    Zildjian is still sitting on their trade secret for making cymbals 400 years later.

  • Metazoan||

    Yeah, without an FDA it would be easier and better. But that still doesn't get rid of much of the cost of molecule discovery/design/refinement.

    Trade secrets wouldn't work that well for drugs, because interested parties would buy the drug and determine its structure. This is putting aside the loss of the benefits of having the research community play with the molecule and potentially discover new uses/derivatives.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    If you work hard to create a successful product, let's say Tarran's Donuts, which you sell in a blue box and I start putting out Taran's Donuts in a box exactly copying the color and design of yours, that's OK?

  • Metazoan||

    And that's still relatively minor compared to one spending 10 years and tens of millions of dollars developing a small molecule drug, only to have someone else be able to make it for the cost of production.

  • tarran||

    Have at it.

    OF course, I'll be negotiating with the stores carrying my donuts to demand they not stock yours - private trade mark systems are eminently doable.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    That would be great for consumer choice.

  • robc||

    ???

    I dont know of any place that I can buy both Dunkin Doughnuts and Krispy Kreme.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I don't think any third party carries them because their whole thing is to sell fresh donuts. Just like you can't find any place that sells Big Macs and Whoppers.

    But many products are made to go retail.

    What tarran is talking about is each producer doing business with retailers having to negotiate contractually with all of them each time someone comes too close to their mark. To me that shifts the burden from the wrongdoer to the wronged.

    Trademark infringement in its most stark form is essentially fraud.

  • robc||

    Trademark infringement in its most stark form is essentially fraud.

    I agree, its the one form of IP I support, for that reason, but I can see other models of handling it.

  • robc||

    Just like you can't find any place that sells Big Macs and Whoppers.

    They sign a franchise agreement to not carry the other. Which is what tarran was talking about.

  • John||

    True. It would kill IP law. To say you want the government out of IP is another way of saying you want to end IP.

    If only Libertarians understood that logic in every context.

  • robc||

    Getting the government out of marriage wouldnt end marriage.

  • robc||

    Sorry, shorthand, getting the government out of marriage licensing.

  • robc||

    You know I make that argument, right?

    Except for, amusingly, trademarks.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I am outraged...I mean, this homeboy is pissed off.

  • Luddite||

    Cogito ergo [C&D]

  • Ska||

    Funny coming from a guy who is notorious for plagiarizing other musicians' works.

  • Zeb||

    I recently saw will.i.am's appearance on top gear. I think he might actually be retarded. Though I had to give him some credit for trying to start a business in the neighborhood he grew up in rather than just demanding more handouts and government action. I'm sure he does plenty of that too.

  • Hash Brown||

    Jehovah does not lawyer up. He kicks ass pro se, like Chuck Norris.

  • Mainer2||

  • Invisible Finger||

    I think the Machinist's Union has a better case.

    http://www.goiam.org/

  • sticks||

    I thought it was pronounced William with the fucking periods in his name.

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