Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo in Legal Dispute over Neptunes Name Rights

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Apr 1, 2024

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo — who together are known as acclaimed production and songwriting duo the Neptunes — are locked in a legal dispute over rights to their group's name.

Billboard reports that in a legal action filed last week, attorneys for Hugo accused Williams and his company, PWIP Holdings LLC, of attempting to register trademarks for the Neptunes name, violating an agreement that sees the duo split everything evenly.

"Throughout their over thirty-year history, [Hugo] and Williams agreed to, and in fact, have divided all assets," writes Hugo's attorney, Kenneth D. Freundlich [via Billboard]. "By ignoring and excluding [Hugo] from the any [sic] and all applications filed by applicant for the mark 'The Neptunes,' applicant has committed fraud in securing the trademarks and acted in bad faith."

Hugo's attorneys argue that Williams "knowingly and intentionally" filed three separate trademark applications for "The Neptunes" in 2022 without required input from Hugo, despite being "fully aware" that either Hugo or their partnership entity should have been listed as a co-owner.

They claim that they've contacted Williams "repeatedly" about the issue, and how his lawyer have "admitted that [Hugo] is equal co-owner of the trademarks" and promised to include him.

A rep for Williams shared in a statement provided to Billboard today that the "Happy" hitmaker was "surprised" by the filing, adding, "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."

Williams and Hugo met at age 12 at a summer camp for musicians, later entering a talent show as the Neptunes in 1992. It was there that the duo were discovered by Teddy Riley, and soon began working with the Blackstreet/Guy vocalist early that decade.

In early 2020, Hugo revealed that the Neptunes had been working with the likes of Lil Nas X, Miley Cyrus, JAY-Z, blink-182, Lil Uzi Vert, Kaytranada, Dua Lipa and more.

In the time since, the duo have lent their production skill to songs by Megan Thee Stallion, SZA, Rosalía, Brent Faiyaz and Omar Apollo.

Later this year, Williams's life and career will be explored in a new animated Lego biopic.  

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