A nasty war has broken out between Sean Diddy Combs, and the famous brand that bears his name – Sean John.
The rap mogul/mega-star claims the owners of Sean John have hijacked another notable and important brand he created – “Vote Or Die.”
Diddy says the company behind Sean John stole the “Vote Or Die” phrase from the non-profit he established, Citizen Change, and is illegally selling the saying on t-shirts and other merchandise on SeanJohn.com.
Here is what’s going on.
Diddy established Citizen Change in 2004, to increase youth and minority participation in local and national electoral politics. The legendary businessman registered “Vote Or Die” in 2004 as well, to promote the slogan on a t-shirt, in commercials, and during voter registration drives.
Diddy backed the massive “Vote Or Die” campaign, which featured celebrities like Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Paris Hilton Ashton Kutcher, and even Ellen DeGeneres, in marketing campaigns. encouraging young people to get out and vote.
In April of 2010, the United States Patent And Trade Office granted Citizen Change the official trademark registration for “Vote Or Die.”
Diddy’s other companies, Christian Casey LLC (named after his son) and Jessie and D Lila LLC (named after his twins), owned and controlled the Sean John brand. In November of 2016, Diddy’s companies sold off the Sean John brand to a business called GBG USA.
The “Vote Or Die” trademark held by Citizen Change was not part of the asset purchase agreement, and the non-profit had nothing to do with the Sean John deal, and GBG USA allegedly had no rights to the phrase.
Unfortunately, on December, 2nd 2016, Citizen Change’s “Vote Or Die” trademark was administratively canceled by the USPTO, for failure to file renewal documents.
But Diddy continued to use the trademark. For instance, in 2018, he promoted the “Vote Or Die” campaign on social media, and was frequently seen rocking the slogan on t-shirts during that same year.
In November of 2019, GBG/Sean John must have noticed the mark expired, because they filed an application to obtain ownership of the “Vote Or Die” trademark. Initially, the USPTO refused to grant GBG/Sean John the rights to the slogan, until they submitted “evidence and arguments and support of registration.”
In August of 2020, Diddy’s lawyer claims GBG submitted false statements to the USPTO to make it look as if the rap mogul was still affiliated with the Sean John brand, which he had sold off completely in the 2016 deal. These false claims led the USPTO to believe Diddy and Citizen Change were affiliated with the GBG/Sean John – and granted the company the rights to the “Vote Or Die” trademark.
“[GBG] wrongfully and fraudulently applied for registration for the opposed ‘Vote Or Die’ Mark even though it was fully aware that [Citizen Change] at various times used and owned rights in and to the ‘Vote Or Die’ Mark,” Diddy’s lawyer John Krieger, Esq. explained.
Diddy immediately objected, and in 2020, GBG/Sean John agreed to assign and transfer the trademark application back to Citizen Change, but so far the company has refused to honor the transfer.
To make matters worse, GBG/Sean John allegedly took advantage of the situation and started using Diddy’s slogan in a marketing campaign during the election year.
In September of 2020, Diddy got down to business and registered a new trademark for the slogan “Vote Or Die!” (featuring an exclamation point at the end). The following month, in October of 2020, Diddy launched a Vote Or Die! branded town hall meeting with Dr. Cornell West and Kerry Washington.
The very next day, GSB and Sean John launched a marketing campaign using the same “Vote Or Die” slogan, and even included an exclamation point at the end of the phrase as well.
Diddy accuses the company of fraud and is asking the USPTO to reject GSB/Sean John’s rights to the “Vote Or Die trademark.