Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo in Legal Battle Over The Neptunes Name

Hugo claims his former best friend and musical partner for over 30 years is the only one profiting off The Neptunes' name.

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, aka The Neptunes, the producing and songwriting dynamic duo responsible for hits like Nelly’s “Hot In Herre,” Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and The Clipse’s “Grinding,” are in a legal battle over their legendary name. According to reports, Hugo has accused Williams of “fraudulently” pushing him out of their shared trademarks, according to Billboard.

This rift stings because Williams and Hugo have been friends since high school and have amassed such great success together. The two Songwriter Hall of Famers historically made an agreement that they’d split everything. Hugo’s attorney, Kenneth D. Freundlich, claimed that Williams and his company attempted to unilaterally register trademarks for the Neptunes' name, violating Hugo and Williams’ agreement for a 50/50 split of their shared name.

Freundlich said, “By ignoring and excluding [Hugo] from the any and all applications filed by applicant for the mark ‘The Neptunes,’ applicant has committed fraud in securing the trademarks and acted in bad faith.”

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In a statement, a rep for Williams said there had been no ill intent behind the disputed trademark filings: “Pharrell is surprised by this. We have reached out on multiple occasions to share in the ownership and administration of the trademark and will continue to make that offer. The goal here was to make sure a third party doesn’t get a hold of the trademark and to guarantee Chad and Pharrell share in ownership and administration.”

Freundlich clapped back in his own statement and disputed Williams’ version of the truth. He said, “If Pharell’s intent was to include Chad in the filing, he should have registered it in the name of their jointly owned company Neptunes, LLC and not in his own name. This was a land grab in a long simmering dispute that has yet to be resolved.”

Reportedly, there are three separate applications to register “The Neptunes” as a trademark – one covering the use of the name on streaming music, another for music videos and other content, and a third covering live performances. They were filed in 2022 by Pharrell’s company, PW IP Holdings LLC, which also owns such registrations for his band N.E.R.D., his Miami-based Goodtime Hotel and many other brand names. Williams’ company has already successfully registered The Neptunes' name as a trademark for musical sound recordings, and he has another pending application to register the name for clothing and other merchandise.

Freundlich and his team say they have contacted Williams’ team “repeatedly” and that the “Frontin’” rapper’s lawyers had “admitted that [Hugo] is equal co-owner of the trademarks” and promised to include him. Hugo’s case claims that Williams’ sharing never happened.

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