Streetwear label Sean John is the focus of two lawsuits filed by rapper and entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs. Though Combs sold the majority of his label to brand management agency CAA-GBG in 2016, he alleges in both lawsuits that the agency is now misusing his celebrity for profit.
Earlier this month, Combs sued Global Brands Group (GBG) and fast-fashion brand Missguided over issues surrounding Sean John’s first-ever women’s collection, a collaboration that featured references to Combs and was allegedly launched without his consent. According to court documents, promotions included misleading or falsified statements from Combs that insinuated he endorsed the collection.
The line spans 114 pieces of women’s clothing, including a statement bandana print similar to the outfit Combs’ then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, wore to the 2000 MTV VMAs.
Claims against GBG and Missguided include common law and statutory rights of publicity under California state law. Combs is seeking monetary damages and an end to the brands using his “name, image, likeness, voice or persona” without his written permission.
Rivet reached out to GBG for a statement and was told the company could not comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation.
Just days after filing the initial lawsuit, Combs issued another one against GBG—this time, focusing on Sean John’s recent use of his famed “Vote or Die” slogan, which was featured in an October 2020 collection. Combs introduced the phrase during the 2004 presidential election to encourage younger generations and minorities to vote. Through his other company Citizen Change, Combs trademarked the slogan, and never passed along the mark to GBG.
However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administratively cancelled the registration in 2010 after Citizen Change failed to file renewal documents, adding a layer of complexity to the case. According to court documents, Combs’ lawyer alleged that GBG “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.”
Leading up to the launch of the collection, Combs separately wore clothing featuring the slogan, which the court documents allege could deceive consumers into believing there’s a connection between Citizen Change and GBG.
Claims against GBG include common law trademark infringement, common law unfair competition and deceptive practices under New York state law.
GBG—and subsequently Combs—was recently under fire for defaulting on payments to garment suppliers in Bangladesh due to plunging apparel demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. Combs’ current legal affairs could help set the boundary between him and the brand—a move that’s bound to infiltrate the fashion industry, as more and more celebrities launch brands under their name or act as a primary spokesperson.