THE BLOG

Pharrell's Real Message: I.Am.Not.A.Lawyer

07/02/2013 06:03 pm ET | Updated Sep 01, 2013

I guess you could make an argument that Doctor Seuss should have sued will.i.am when the Black Eyed Peas front man trademarked i.am sometime in the last millennium.

But that would have been pointless since Seuss -- Theodor Seuss Geisel -- died in 1991 and Will's adopted name was clearly an homage to an American great. So everyone could understand why Will would want to adopt a name paying his respects in a fun, playful way.

But what in the heck is up with his fellow musician Pharrell Williams trying to grab "I.Am" from Will by filing suit in a New York court?

It's easy to dismiss the whole kerfuffle and write it all off as two famous guys behaving badly, which seems to be the general drift in the media, but in fact, from what I've seen, this seems to be all Pharrell. He's having a tantrum and asking people to sympathize with him. He's falsely claiming that he's being sued by Will even as he himself is suing Will! Talk about hypocrisy. Maybe when you've got a hit song or two out there your PR team decides to keep making headlines any way you can.

The whole thing is absurd on its face: Pharrell decided he wanted to get a trademark on "i am other." He's savvy enough about trademarks and the need for them to hold more than two dozen trademarks on "Pharrell." So he could hardly have been surprised when Will's lawyer pointed out that "i am other" is too similar to Will's trademark.

Think about it: If I decided I wanted to sell toothpaste, and figured I'd call it "Pharrell Williams Toothpaste," his lawyers would slap me down in nothing flat. And yet he wants to claim "i am other" for himself?

A little background: More than six years ago I was in New York for the Clinton Global Initiative and met Will there and ended up having lunch with him at a nearby deli. I figured we would talk a few minutes and I'd get bored -- instead, an hour later, Will was still throwing out interesting ideas. For example, he predicted that within our lifetimes the new ultimate identification for all of us would not be Social Security numbers or passport numbers -- but our IP addresses. I've reported on technology from more than 20 countries as Berlin Correspondent for Wired.com and I have to say: I still think Will might be right about that. Or he's close to right.

The point is: We have to fight to protect our identity. will.i.am has been using variations on "i.am" in a wide range of ways for years. Type i.am into your browser and see what happens. Will has a charity called i.am angel that supports programs like i.am Scholarship, which he launched on Oprah in 2008, i.am home, another one launched on Oprah, one year later, and i.am FIRST and i.am MARS. and i.am Boyle Heights

I've been scouring the news reports and can't find any proof that Will has filed a lawsuit against Pharrell, but that's the notion that keeps getting kicked around. Where are the quotes from a Will legal representative explaining what suit he's filing and why? I can't find anything like that anywhere.

Instead, we have Pharrell claiming that Will is suing him, which Pharrell then claims as justification to go on a legal rampage against Will. He can't possibly win, not in a court -- the only people who are going to win are the legions of lawyers called into duty to pocket obscene sums for going through the motions.

Or if media types throw innuendo out there without checking their facts, some people might get the wrong idea -- and might start to question Will. But we're talking about someone who is a genuine role model to the young, sinking not just millions but a lot of his own time and energy into projects to help young people. He deserves better than having one guessed-at blog inspiring another and another and another.

Will has denied filing any lawsuits. Shouldn't he be taken at his word? Shouldn't he be given the benefit of the doubt? He's anything but a new arrival on the scene.

This was the statement released by Pharrell: "I am surprised in how this is being handled and I am confident that Will's trademark claims will ultimately be found to be as meritless and ridiculous as I do."

He must pay people to review his statements, and yet this one makes no sense: As meritless as I do? Huh? What he meant was: As meritless as what I am doing.

Please, let's hope this things goes away -- Pharrell has no case, and ought to content himself with working out some sort of understanding with Will or forgetting the whole thing and going back to making music.