Friday, September 13, 2013

Mud Wrestling in Federal Court

I was excited when this story broke a couple of weeks back:
Snooki slaps perfume company Excell Brands LLC with $6M-plus lawsuit for using her name without her permission 
The ‘Jersey Shore’ star is raising a stink after the company allegedly sold a scent bearing her name and signature, exactly as they appear on her authentic ‘Snooki’ and ‘Snooki’ Couture products. The perfume, according to the suit, also ‘features a distinctive black-and-white animal print on the box.’
It has all the finest elements of a mudwrestling contest: New Joisey culcha, celebuscents, fragrance knockoffs and a Federal lawsuit. Perfect material for FN’s Business End of the Blotter. So why, you might ask, have I taken so long to serve up the inside scoop? Well, it’s not for lack of trying. Here’s what I found so far:

Excell Brands LLC is a New Jersey corporation founded in 2010 and located in South Plainfield. According to its profile page on, the company has seven employees and annual revenue estimated at $750,000. The business directory locates the company in Princeton and estimates it as having one to five employees, and annual sales of less than $500,000. So we are not talking about a large enterprise. But they have lots of perfumes listed on, the somewhat skeevy e-commerce site in communist China.

And then consider this item for sale on “Women’s “MY BUTTERFLY PINK” Perfume by Diamond Collection.”

Take a close look at the label; it reads“Our version of Mariah Carey’s Luscious Pink.”

Here’s the Amazon page for Mariah Carey’s Luscious Pink.

And here’s a close-up of the Luscious Pink label.

The use of a logo signature on an “our version of” product is exactly what Ms. Polizzi is objecting to in her lawsuit against Excell Brands. [OK, Sherlock, but My Pink Butterfly is produced by Diamond Collection, not Excell Brands—Ed.] [Keep your pants on.]

The name Diamond Collection was filed as a perfume trademark in April, 2011, by none other than . . . Excell Brands LLC of Princeton, New Jersey. The trademark application was abandoned about a year later. In the meantime, however, Excell Brands registered the perfume names “Ruby Collection,” “Emerald Collection,” and “Diamond Collection Luxurious Fragrance.”

Check Emerald Collection on Amazon and you will find
Golden Rush Perfume an Impression our Version of Gucci Rush by Gucci
Ferrera Perfume For Women, Version Of Carolina Herrera
Very Sensual Perfume, an Impression our Version of Victoria's Secret Very Sexy for Women
Change Blue Cologne/Perfume Impression. A Version of French cologne Bleu de Chanel
and so on and so on. Meanwhile, Ruby Collection features "Our version of Paris Hilton For Women," etc.

The brain trust behind Excell Brands must feel pretty confident that it is not infringing trademarks when it uses a competitor’s name and incorporates similar design features in its packaging. Ms. Polizzi’s claim is that the use of the exact design of her name logo on the Excell Brands product is an infringement, and she may be correct. Whether she can squeeze $6 million out of these down-market knock-off artists is another question.

Here’s where I would usually offer some choice bits from the court filings. But the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has taken a long time to get posted online. And what has been posted is not promising.

D’oh! Spelling matters, people! [Nah, it’s a Jersey thing.—Ed.]

Exit question:Can a corporation refuse service of a lawsuit if the company name is misspelled?

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