Pharrell Williams, Will.i.Am Settle Trademark Lawsuit

Last year, Pharrell Williams attempted to trademark his company name “I Am Other.”

trademarkIn response, Will.i.Am filed a trademark lawsuit, claiming it was too similar to his i.am+ product and that it could be confusing, as both artists are signed to the same record label and make similar music.

The two have since settled the lawsuit, but it brings up an interesting question, what does a celebrity need to do in order to trademark a business?

Trademarking a Business

The process is pretty straightforward and an application can generally be completed online in less than 90 minutes, according to The Wall Street Journal. The simplest place to go is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site, www.uspto.gov. It generally costs between $275 and $325.

However, just because filling out an application is easy doesn’t mean it will be approved. In fact, it is best to browse the Trademark Electronic Search System database┬áprior to doing anything to find out if another company has already registered a similar trademark. In the above case, Pharrell could have found that Will.i.Am had trademarked his product line with a similar name. If the chosen mark is already in use, the application will be rejected.

There could be some hurdles based upon what the name is that’s being trademarked. For example, it would be very difficult to trademark a business name that is a common phrase. The Wall Street Journal gives two examples of businesses that probably would be rejected – “The Ice Cream Shop” and “We Sell Plants.”

Celebrities looking to trademark a business venture as well as those concerned about the possibility of it being similar to something else may want to seek the advice of an attorney.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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