Hailey Bieber is already dealing with a lawsuit just a week after launching her new beauty line, Rhode. The name, which is also Bieber’s middle name, is spelled the exact same way as the clothing line Rhode, which was launched in 2013 by Purna Khatau and Phoebe Vickers.
On Tuesday, Khatau and Vickers posted a lengthy explanation on Instagram about why they felt “forced” to file a trademark infringement lawsuit against Bieber.
“We didn’t want to file this lawsuit,” the message says, “but we had to in order to protect our business.”
What is the legal basis for Bieber’s trademark?
Khatau and Vickers’s Rhode has three trademarks for clothing, textiles and “women’s clothing, hair accessories, dolls, puzzles, and holiday ornaments,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Bieber filed a trademark for Rhode at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in May 2022, but it hasn’t come under review yet, the WSJ also found.
It takes an average of 12 to 18 months to register a trademark. There is limited legal protection for businesses with unregistered trademarks like Bieber’s, but the law favors “consumer goodwill” and typically finds it unfair for a company to choose branding that will confuse consumers and potentially harm other businesses.
Did Hailey Bieber know there was already a company named Rhode?
According to Khatau and Vickers, Bieber’s team did know about their clothing brand. They explained in the Instagram post that someone had reached out to them four years ago. It’s not clear whether it was someone on Bieber’s team or Bieber herself.
“Hailey could choose any brand for her skin-care line,” the duo said on Instagram. “That’s why we didn’t sell her our brand when she asked four years ago.”
Rania Sedhom, founder of Sedhom Law Group, explained to Glossy that the fact that Bieber did once try to buy the name from Khatau and Vickers will help the fashion brand’s case that Bieber’s use of the same name will detract from their business.
“Rhode, the skin-care brand, doesn’t really have a good defense,” Sedhom told the outlet. “The apparel brand has been around for almost a decade. The name is exactly the same.”
Since the original Rhode is for clothing and Bieber’s Rhode is for skin care, can’t they coexist?
The basis of Khatau and Vickers’s lawsuit is that Bieber has created “market confusion” by launching a brand with the same name as theirs in a similar market. Beauty and fashion are intertwined and often sold on similar websites — like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Net-a-Porter, to name a few. The lawsuit is asking a Manhattan federal court judge to block Bieber from continuing to market her brand until she changes the name.
Another big problem is Bieber is a celebrity with over 45 million Instagram followers and is married to another celebrity — singer Justin Bieber — with 243 million followers. Both of them have been promoting the skin care line to millions of fans, who now associate “Rhode” with the Biebers.
According to the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the case, Khatau and Vickers claim that it’s “only taken days for some consumers to believe that the 8-year-old company is trading off the name of the new competitor.”
What will happen with Hailey Bieber’s skin care line if the lawsuit succeeds?
Should Khatau and Vickers win their lawsuit, Bieber might have to alter her brand’s name and marketing strategy. It’s also possible that Khatau and Vickers would win monetary damages to make up for lost profit.
Trademark lawsuits are expensive, and unfortunately for Khatau and Vickers, it’s very likely that Rhode the skin care brand has a lot more money behind it.
“In terms of dollars and cents, it’s likely that Rhode the skin-care brand has a lot more money than the apparel brand, and it’s got a famous celebrity behind it,” Sedhom told Glossy. “Often in those cases, no matter who’s in the right, the giant wins. But it’s also good to remember the story of David and Goliath.”
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