In the fiercely competitive cosmetics business protecting brand names that have taken years of hard work to establish has always been a priority for some of the bigger players, but a recent spate of lawsuits suggests that the battle is heating up, meaning the importance of strong legal representation has never been more important.
Over the past few months there has been a rash of lawsuits involving big names such as Gucci, Colgate, Stella McCartney and L’Oreal.
Indeed, last week saw big cases on both sides of the Atlantic, with a lawsuit filed against Stella McCartney that singled out the latest perfume launch ‘Stella Nude’, Colgate taking out lawsuits against rival oral care players for the use of the Total brand name and Gucci succesfully winning a battle to prevent rivals trading under its name.
Can the word 'Nude' really be copyrighted?
British designer Stella McCartney had planned to launch her new fragrance in association with L’Oreal-owned Yves Saint Laurent this autumn, but has come under fire from Nude Brands limited, which claims the launch of the fragrance will encroach on the trademark for its Nude Skincare range.
The big issue that the law courts will have to carefully mull over is whether or not a word such as ‘nude’, which can be used readily in every day language, can actually be trademarked.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Italian fashion house Gucci has won a court case banning the wife and daughter of a former company chief designer Paulo Gucci from using the Gucci name to promote a number of products, including a cosmetics range.
Another recent example was two lawsuits filed by Colgate Palmolive against both Johnson & Johnson and Chattem for misuse of the company’s Total brand name, claiming that previous permission to use the brand name was no longer valid.
Spectrum of legal issues highlight minefield
Although all of these cases are very different, they all highlight the increasingly drastic steps companies are prepared to go to in an effort to protect brand names and any perceived infringement of them.
As any major brand holder will testify, big brand names take years to establish and major investments in marketing and advertising to build them into household names, an expense they do not want to go to only to have other companies trying to ‘hijack’ or copy.
This problem is also likely to be further exacerbated by the current economic situation, as shrinking advertising and marketing budgets mean that many companies are looking to make successful product launches with increasingly limited resources.
For this reason, the idea of 'piggy-backing' another company's brand name is likely to become more appealing.
Whether it be the protection of an established brand or a new product launch, the current climate underlines how brand protection and copyright is an area just too important to skip. Employing a knowledgeable legal team that knows the market intricately is indispensable, even if budgets are limited.