The case of Dearlove v Coombs  EWHC 375 (Ch) is all about which man has the right to call himself ‘Diddy’ in the UK. You may think that the answer is anyone under 5 foot 5 but you would be wrong; so long as they are not engaged in the music industry that may be true, but among recording artists only Richard Dearlove can do so. That fact was settled in an earlier brush between Mr Dearlove and Sean Coombs, the world famous recording artist known (at one time or another) as Sean Puffy Coombs, Puff Daddy and P Diddy. In most of the world, Sean Coombs is now known as ‘Diddy’ (or, more likely, ‘Puff thingy, what’s he calling himself these days?’) but the terms of a settlement of the passing-off case brought by Mr Dearlove and agreed in 2006 provide that in the UK he is to be known as P Diddy and require him not to advertise, offer or provide any goods and services not being the Claimant’s goods and services as a remixer, producer, songwriter, recording artist and DJ under or with reference to the word ‘Diddy’.
Reading the most recent judgment, it is clear that pretty stringent steps have in fact been taken to ensure that there is no leakage of the ‘Diddy’ branding from Diddyland to the UK but the Internet leaks through jurisdictional boundaries like water through a sieve. Although UK visitors to certain sites are automatically redirected to matching sites with the relevant P Diddy tags, material on MySpace and YouTube was not cordoned off effectively. What is interesting in the judgment from the legal point of view is that those responsible for placing promotional material on the MySpace and YouTube sites (and it remains open as to whether this is Sean Coombs or his record company etc) will not be allowed to hide in this largely IP-free jungle. There is control of such material and there is accountability for IP breaches – even though hosted in the USA when the only claim is for passing off in the UK.
For more detailed analysis of this case, see the article from Nick Mathys on this site. For the moment, the web site editor will confine himself to the thought that Messrs Dearlove and Coombs are both too old to go round calling themselves ‘Diddy’. What is wrong with the names Dearlove and Coombs anyway? Perhaps the settlement will include an agreement to record together as the Diddymen and we can all look forward to the surreal entry of Ken Dodd into this piece of litigation tennis.