Diddy is not happy with Global Brands Group.
Sean “Diddy” Combs, the hip-hop entrepreneur who founded the Sean John men’s wear label 22 years ago, took aim at GBG Sean John USA in two separate complaints filed in New York federal court a week apart.
The first suit, filed Feb. 4 in the Southern District of New York federal court, is seeking $25 million for “false endorsement, misappropriation of likeness and violating his publicity rights,” over the launch last fall of a women’s collection with U.K. fast-fashion retailer Missguided Unlimited.
Combs targeted the GBG entities and Missguided over the “Sean John x Missguided” collection debut, which had received coverage at the time, including in WWD, as a collaboration with Sean John.
But the GBG entities’ promotion of the collection “misstates Mr. Combs’ connection to the GBG Collection,” Combs alleged in his suit. Combs claimed that although he wasn’t contesting the defendants’ ability to use the Sean John trademark, he was taking issue with the company allegedly creating the impression that the collection was a collaboration with him, when he neither endorsed the collection nor agreed to the use of his name or branding to promote it, according to the complaint.
To market the collection, the defendants even allegedly fabricated a quote that Combs claimed in his suit he had not provided.
“Defendants jointly authored and approved the quote falsely attributed to Mr. Combs, and never provided the statement to Mr. Combs for his review and/or approval,” he wrote in the suit.
“Because Mr. Combs’ name, image, likeness and persona are an extremely valuable asset, he zealously guards his publicity rights and carefully evaluates whether, and to what extent, those rights may be exploited by others,” he said in the suit.
The second suit, filed Feb. 10, was brought by Combs’ nonprofit Citizen Change over the GBG entities’ use of the phrase “Vote or Die,” the trademark for which is owned by Citizen Change and another company run by Combs called CE Trademark, according to the complaint.
“Rather than develop a new trademark for defendant’s politically-inspired merchandising efforts, defendant has engaged in bald opportunism by applying to register the mark ‘Vote Or Die after the USPTO administratively cancelled the registration originally obtained by Citizen Change,” the Citizen Change complaint claimed. “But that cancellation did not terminate the rights to the Vote Or Die mark that are owned by plaintiffs.
“Because defendant’s use of the mark Vote Or Die is likely to cause consumer confusion and to deceive purchasers — leading them to believe that defendant’s products bearing the mark ‘Vote Or Die’ originate from plaintiffs — this unlawful conduct must stop,” the Citizen Change complaint said.
A spokesperson for GBG said Friday that the company had no comment on the lawsuits.
GBG purchased a majority stake in the Sean John brand as well as its sister label, Enyce, for an undisclosed amount in 2016. Combs retained a minority interest — believed to be around 20 percent — and continued to be involved in the marketing and promotion of the Sean John brand. He retains that interest today, according to sources.
At the time of the deal, Sean John had annual retail sales of around $450 million. On the brand’s 20th anniversary, plans called for building the Sean John label, which operates under a licensed model, into a $1 billion business, one that would include expansion internationally along with retail stores and the move into more categories.
Combs began his business career as an intern for Uptown Records. He founded his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment, in 1993 as a venture with Arista Records and there helped develop the careers of everyone from The Notorious B.I.G. to Faith Evans. Alternately known as Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy and Diddy, he is chairman and chief executive officer of Combs Enterprises, a portfolio of businesses and investments that includes everything from wine and spirits to water, entertainment management, film and television.