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

Hugo claims his friend and business partner "fraudulently" sought sole control over the duo's name, while Williams' rep claims they have reached out "to share" ownership

<p>KMazur/WireImage</p> Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams at the Grammys in February 2006


Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams at the Grammys in February 2006

Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams are locked in a legal battle over The Neptunes name.

In a trademark opposition filed last week at a federal tribunal, Hugo, 50, claims that the producer/fashion designer, 50, is "fraudulently" looking for sole control of the trademarks, which violates the pair's agreement to split everything equally.

In a statement to PEOPLE, a rep for Williams says that they have tried to offer ownership to Hugo.

"Pharrell is surprised by this," the rep says in a statement. "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."

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At the center of the opposition are three applications — filed in 2022 by PW IP Holdings LLC, Williams' company which owns registrations for his band N.E.R.D., his Miami hotel Goodtime Hotel, and more — to register "The Neptunes" as a trademark, one for the name on streaming music, another for music videos and additional content and the final one for live performances.

In the notice of opposition, Hugo’s attorneys claimed that the "Happy" artist had “knowingly and intentionally” filed for those trademark applications without consulting Hugo, despite being “fully aware” that his partner should have been listed as a co-owner.

"Nothing, either written or oral, provided Williams or [PW IP Holdings] with the unilateral authority to register the trademarks," they claim in the documents.

Hugo’s attorneys allege they’ve “repeatedly” reached out to Williams' team about the issue, and that Williams' “admitted that [Hugo] is equal co-owner of the trademarks” and promised to include him — a claim that reflects a statement from Williams' rep.

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<p>Theo Wargo/WireImage</p> Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes at the BMI Pop Awards in Los Angeles in May 2004

Theo Wargo/WireImage

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes at the BMI Pop Awards in Los Angeles in May 2004

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“Throughout their over 30 year history, [Hugo] and Williams agreed to, and in fact, have divided all assets,” wrote Hugo’s attorney Kenneth D. Freundlich in the filing. “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.”

In the early 2000s, The Neptunes produced many radio hits including Snoop Dogg's “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Gwen Stefani's “Hollaback Girl," Nelly's “Hot in Herre" and Justin Timberlake's “Rock Your Body.”

The duo — who have been friends since they were children — were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022.

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