A recent High Court tussle pitted London music remixer Richard Dearlove against rap megastar Sean Combs from the US. What could they possibly be fighting about and was the might of the former ‘Puff Daddy’ right?
Who: Sean Combs and Richard “Diddy” Dearlove
Where: High Court
When: September 2006
London’s own music producer has won a battle against the famous entertainer and entrepreneur Sean Combs over the right to use the name “Diddy”.
Richard “Diddy” Dearlove had been operating under the name “Diddy” for over 12 years when the P Diddy, formerly known as Puffy and Puff Daddy before that, decided to rebrand himself by dropping the “P”.
Mr Dearlove found that people in the business were confusing him with the international rap star and commenced an action in passing-off. Mr Dearlove had not registered the word “Diddy” as a trade mark. Therefore, trade mark infringement is not an issue here. The action was listed for hearing in the High Court on 23 October.
The parties reached a settlement on this matter. As part of the deal, Sean Combs has agreed to pay over £110,000, the bulk of which is in respect of legal costs. Additionally, the global superstar is no longer allowed to trade under the name “Diddy” in the UK, which is likely to involve an expensive rebranding exercise – this is where it is really going to hurt!
Why this matters:
In order to establish passing off, there must be evidence of the following three elements:
– there is reputation or goodwill acquired by the Mr Dearlove in his trade under the "Diddy" name;
– Sean Combs’ use of the name “Diddy” would lead to confusion; and
– this confusion would cause damage to Mr Dearlove.
The tort of passing off is used to prevent a party from exploiting the goodwill belonging to another. Therefore, the goodwill element is key to making a successful passing off claim. Had Mr Dearlove accumulated sufficient goodwill in the name “Diddy” in the context of his trade?
Okay, so let us try and put this to scale. Sean Combs has an estimated personal fortune of £195 million. His ventures are far reaching and diverse, including acting, music, a clothing line, a reality TV show, to name a but a few. Mr Richard “Diddy” Dearlove is a music producer who is best known for creating a dance remix of “Atomic” by Blondie. Mr Dearlove has been using the mark “Diddy” since 1992 but has only had one chart hit under the “Diddy” name.
However, this huge disparity in wealth and influence appears to have had no impact on the outcome. As Mr Dearlove has said:
“This is my name. I’ve been successful too. I’m not a global megastar but what I do is valid”.