Will.i.am, Pharrell, Trademarks And Ham, Sam I Am
from the facepalm-i-am dept
We’ve written in the past about will.i.am, the oft-spectacled member of The Black Eyed Fergies. In particular, he has been known in the past to be somewhat lax in the realm of intellectual property laws and rights. That’s to his credit. On the other hand, his recent overprotective nature in the matter of trademarks is disheartening, though admittedly entertaining. See, will.i.am apparently holds trademarks on the phrase “I am” covering clothing goods. Pharrell Williams’ company, I Am Other Entertainment, attempted to register the mark “I Am Other” with the USPTO, prompting a cease and desist from will.i.am and his company I.Am.Symbolic. In return, Pharrell filed for a declaratory judgement seeking to affirm that no infringement has occurred.
It’s in that document that the absurdity of all of this begins. Pharrell focuses on how will.i.am attempted to get the mark registered for products like jewelry and accessories, but was rejected due to similarity with already-existing marks. Then, Pharrell’s filing drags beloved children’s book writer Dr. Seuss into the mix, because why the shit not?
Pharrell Williams also points to popular culture, from Dr. Seuss’ use of the words “Sam I am” from the book Green Eggs and Ham to the long list of other musicians who have put “I Am” to use. For example, there’s Beyonce’s 2008 album, I Am…, as well as the 146 artists (I Am Virgin, I Am Ghost, I Am Band …) counted by the plaintiff on AllMusic.com.
“Thus, the I AM formative is diluted in the music industry, and Defendants cannot preclude others from using that phrase especially when it is used in conjunction with additional, distinctive words,” says the lawsuit.
And, the ridiculousness of mentioning Dr. Seuss aside, it’s hard not to see his point. There’s a great deal of folks in the music business making use of the phrase in a variety of ways. Beyond that, “I am” is one of those English language conventions that’s a bit hard to do without, and equally difficult to associate with anyone in particular for that very reason. What I’m saying is that anyone that hears the phrase “I am” coming out of a musicians mouth or company and immediately decides that it must be will.i.am’s product needs to be taken away somewhere, preferably a dark and quiet room, and have a few things about life and language explained to them, likely in the most brutal way possible.
will.i.am disagrees, however, stating that because Pharrell made the mistake a while back of collaborating with him on some music projects, confusion is inevitable.
Yes, there might be others who use “I Am,” but will.i.am is famous, has invested in a “family” of marks (I Am Scholarship, I Am Home, I Am Angel, etc.), and has collaborated with Pharrell Williams in the past, which might lead consumers to believe that “I Am Entertainment” represents another such collaboration.
Right, because anyone that’s done a duet with will.i.am must hitherto be a collaborator anytime they use the phrase “I am.” Never mind that Pharrell’s “I Am Other” mark appears to go out of its way to create disassociation. Never mind that this is likely one of the most common phrases in the English language. No, we’re all to be confused between one hip hop star and another. Morons in a hurry…all of us.