Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo Locked in Legal Battle Over ‘Fraudulent’ Ownership of ‘Neptunes’ Name

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo Locked in Legal Battle Over ‘Fraudulent’ Ownership of ‘Neptunes’ Name
Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the dynamic pair behind The Neptunes, are in a legal battle over their name. Hugo deems Williams’ attempt to obtain trademark control “fraudulent.”

Before Williams became a solo star, The Neptunes had a string of hits in the early 2000s. Their hits including “Hot in Herre,” “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” “Hollaback Girl,” and “Rock Your Body” made them renowned. Friends since childhood, they entered the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022.

Hugo's lawyers have claimed that Pharrell and his firm broke their lengthy agreement. The agreement distributed all assets equally, they said. Hugo's attorney, Kenneth D. Freundlich, accused Pharrell of fraud and bad faith in aiming to monopolize The Neptunes trademarks.

“Throughout their over thirty-year history, [Hugo] and Williams agreed to, and in fact, have divided all assets,” Hugo's attorney Kenneth D. Freundlich stated. By disregarding and removing [Hugo] from all applications for ‘The Neptunes,’ applicant has committed trademark fraud and behaved in bad faith.”

Pharrell's spokesperson told Billboard they weren't malevolent. They said Hugo was offered co-ownership and administrative powers many times. They wanted to prevent third-party purchases and guarantee Pharrell and Chad received equal distribution.

Freundlich dismissed Pharrell's answer as disinformation. He said that to include Chad in the files, Pharrell should have registered under joint names or partnerships, not under his name. Freundlich called Pharrell's land grab a premeditated response to unsolved problems.

Three trademark registrations submitted by Pharrell's business PW IP Holdings LLC in 2022 are at issue. The Neptunes apps include streaming, music videos, and live performances. Hugo's lawyers claimed Pharrell willfully omitted Chad from these papers, violating their agreement.

Despite Pharrell's legal team's claims of equal ownership, Hugo's attorneys say otherwise. Pharrell's firm may have imposed strict rules that limit Hugo's power and remuneration, but details are unknown.

Last week's submissions focused on recent trademark registrations, but Hugo's case may expand. Pharrell's firm has trademarked The Neptunes moniker for music and clothes, with further applications pending. Hugo's legal team indicated they will dispute these registrations in future actions to nullify them.
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