NEW YORK—Two former college roommates who created a successful clothing line under the “Rhode” trademark sued model Hailey Bieber on Tuesday, saying she’s creating market confusion by marketing a skin care line under the Rhode name.
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court asked a judge to cite trademark infringement and block Bieber from selling or marketing any products with the Rhode name. It also sought unspecified damages.
The lawsuit said court intervention was necessary because Hailey Bieber is a celebrity with over 45 million Instagram followers who launched her skin care line last week and has filed trademark applications to sell clothing.
Hailey Bieber is married to singer Justin Bieber, and the lawsuit said her husband has promoted her business to his 243 million Instagram followers, generating 1.5 million likes with one posting. Her lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Purna Khatau and Phoebe Vickers are seeking to protect the business they began in 2014 when they quit their day jobs to create a high-end clothing and accessories line, targeting “feminine, confident and well-traveled women.”
Since then, it said, their products have been featured in Vogue, carried in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus worldwide and worn by celebrities including Beyonce, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna. Sales are projected to hit $14.5 million this year, the lawsuit said.
On the day her product was launched, Hailey Bieber said in a Forbes story that she’s had a “really hard time” with “a world of media that likes to perpetuate women against women,” the lawsuit said.
“But the reality is that the “world of media” Ms. Bieber describes is at her disposal. And she has chosen to use it to squash a woman and minority co-founded brand that simply cannot compete with her immense fame and following,” the lawsuit said.
When her product line was launched June 15, Hailey Bieber appeared on “Good Morning America” on ABC and “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on NBC, the lawsuit noted.
The lawsuit said confusion and harm to the brand started by Khatau and Vickers is already widespread and it has only taken days for some consumers to believe that the 8-year-old company is trading off the name of the new competitor instead of the reverse.
By Larry Neumeister