In May, Future dropped his eighth album High Off Life, which features a who’s who in Hip-Hop, including Travis Scott, Young Thug, NBA Youngboy, Drake, Meek Mill, DaBaby, Lil Baby, and others.
The album opened at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart upon its release, earning Future his seventh consecutive chart-topping album.
The only problem is, all of Future’s well-deserved success has caused a nightmare for rapper Phene who owns the trademark to the name High Off Life.
Phene, born Zach Richards, is a York, Pennsylvania native who says he has deep ties to the Atlanta Hip-Hop scene. Phene says he founded High Off Life LLC in 2004 to launch his music business and his rap career.
Phene may not be as commercially successful as Future, but he has featured on hundreds of mixtapes, won five Central Pennsylvania Hip-Hop Awards (including Best Male Artist, Lyricist of the Year, and Album of the Year), and performed six straight years at the A3C Festival in Atlanta, Georgia and SXSW in Austin, Texas.
Phene says his company sells High Off Life t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, tote bags through the domain he owns, www.highofflife.com, which also produces a TV show called High Off Life TV.
Phene noted Future’s album was originally supposed to be titled Life Is Good, but he decided to change the album’s name at the last minute. According to Phene, Future and his crew decided to blatantly use his trademark even though they were aware of his brand and its stature in the Atlanta Hip-Hop scene.
“Freebandz is based in Atlanta—where HOL has had a significant presence in the Hip-Hop scene for over a decade—and Freebandz’ associates are familiar with and know of HOL and its long-time use of and association with the High Off Life marks,” Phene’s lawyer Ray F. Middleman said.
Phene says Freebandz and Sony launched a wide-spread advertising campaign for Future’s High Off Life album. As a result, Phene lost his valuable placements and links in search engines, which now rank Future’s merch and album over his brand.
“Overnight, [Freebandz and Sony] destroyed HOL’s investment of many years and many thousands of dollars into building consumer recognition of HOL’s High Off Life brand,” Middleman added.
Phene accuses Freebandz and Sony of unfair competition, trademark infringement and is asking a jury to determine the amount of damages he is entitled to if he prevails.