Will.i.am's lawyer said that the news that his client is suing Pharrell Williams is not accurate. In an email to Hip Hop Wired, attorney Ken Hurtz wrote, rather, "What will.i.am has done is what any trademark owner must do to protect and maintain a trademark."
Hurtz went on to explain that the "legal action" and court documents that were first cited by Rolling Stone, are [as of now] not part of a lawsuit, but a "standard procedure" objection to Pharrell's application to register "i am OTHER" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He maintains that it will infringe upon will.iam's trademarked "I AM," and cause confusion as he has several business entities using the mark, including I AM ANGEL, which operates "charitable and social assistance programs."
Will.i.am agrees. He tweeted, "i.am not suing @Pharrell & i never was. what i.am doing is #iamHOME helping families keep their homes... see iamANGELfoundation.org."
Hurtz also confirmed that will.i.am and Williams were in talks about the matter (at least their "people" were), but "due to deadlines imposed by the Trademark Office, will.i.am had no choice but to lodge his objection at the time he did."
"This is how the process works. We own a trademark. They have applied for a trademark. We think their proposed trademark is too close to our registered and common law trademarks. They disagree … We hope to work out a sensible compromise that will allow both parties to move forward without unnecessary acrimony."
Pharrell, who said he was "disappointed" in will.i.am's actions, has yet to respond directly to this response.
Other artists have leveraged the phrasing "I am" for promotional purposes in the past, including Diddy's I AM KING fragrance, Bey's "I Am Beyoncé" Tumblr site, and Jay-Z and 50 Cent, who appeared in Reebok's "I Am" advertising campaign. Pharell, if he chooses to pursue it, will have to prove how his "i am" is different than will's. As of today, he's still tweeting followers to go to his "i am OTHER" Facebook.
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(Photo: Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images for TRANS4M)