The ongoing legal spat between Pharrell and Will.i.am has taken a turn for the strange, as if fighting over a trademark claim concerning one of the most commonly used phrases in the English language wasn't absurd enough already.
Ostensibly, this is an argument over two very popular artists' very personal brands, which sounds miserable and horrifying, but we assure you it's much more interesting and hilarious then it sounds. Last week, Will.i.am filed a notice of opposition attempting to shut down Pharrell's "I Am Other" brand. See, Skateboard P (as the kids call him) uses I Am Other as a sort of catch-all for Things Related to Pharrell's Brand. There's his website (with a manifesto!), his Twitter handle, and his YouTube page. It's an entertainment empire, pretty much.
But Will.i.am has been using "I am" as part of his personal brand for years. And Will.i.am thinks Pharrell's new thing will "dilute" his personal brand, as if whatever this is wasn't diluting things enough, so he decided to settle this with a reasonable court requested trademark infringement suit. It's only natural Will.i.iam would have first dibs on any "I am" branding, both on the playground and, hopefully, in court. It's right there in his name!
Apparently Pharrell tried to make peace with the former Black Eyed Pea (are they still a thing?), but Will.i.am wasn't having any of it. "I am someone who likes to talk things out and, in fact, I attempted to do just that on many occasions," Pharrell told Rolling Stone. "I am surprised in how this is being handled and I am confident that Will's trademark claims will ultimately be found to be as meritless and ridiculous as I do."
So, yesterday, in court, Pharrell took the next step in proving how meritless and ridiculous Will.i.am's claims against him really are, when he filed even more legal papers in a Manhattan federal court, asking a judge for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement against Will.i.am and, as TMZ duly notes, using possibly the best legal defense ever:
Pharrell says Will is using the "I Am" is a Seussian way -- as a playfull riff on his own name -- and to hammer home his point, he quotes from Green Eggs and Ham:
"Sam I am
I am Sam
I am Sam
Sam I am"
Pharrell continues in his suit, "In contrast, the I Am Other mark means 'I am something else,' leaving what that 'else' is to the imagination of the consumer. It certainly does not mean 'I am Will.'"
So now this legal battle between two of the softest guys in hip-hop is really heating up. Who knows how the judge will rule on which guy has a better claim on the first-person singular conjugation of "to be," if either really have any claim at all. Long gone are the days when rap feuds would play out in the streets or, hell, even on Twitter. Biggie vs. Tupac, this is not. But we're hoping this issue escalates even further, and possibly goes to court, just so we can have this Law & Order visual play out before our eyes:
If there is a god, this http://t.co/fcuEew589B Pharrell case will go to court, and P will enlist Nardwuar as his lawyer.— ItsTheReal (@itsthereal) July 2, 2013
If Will.i.am doesn't mind, Pharrell's going to return to thinking about more important things, like having the two hottest songs in the country right now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.