Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo embroiled in legal dispute over rights to ‘Neptunes’ name

With hits like Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Kelis’ “Milkshake,” Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” and dozens of others, Pharrell Williams and longtime collaborator Chad Hugo rode to multiplatinum success as the songwriting/production duo the Neptunes. While Pharrell has become a superstar in his own right over the last two decades, with solo hits like “Happy” and “Freedom,” Hugo has kept a comparatively low profile – but the pair are now in a legal dispute over the group’s name.

In the legal action, which was filed last week and first reported by Billboard on Monday, attorneys for Hugo accused Williams of “fraudulently” seeking sole control over the Neptunes’ trademarks, which they claim is in violation of their agreement to split everything equally. The duo have been friends and collaborators since childhood and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022.

“Throughout their over thirty year history, [Hugo] and Williams agreed to, and in fact, have divided all assets,” Hugo’s attorney, Kenneth D. Freundlich, wrote. “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 a statement to Variety, a rep for Pharrell said: “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.”