Friday

MEMO TO PROCTER & GAMBLE: WILLA VERSUS WELLA=LOSER

This doesn't fall into the category of "what in the world  were they thinking?" It may or may not qualify as a case of trademark bullying. But I'll bet anyone a ham sandwich that Proctor & Gamble will be ( or already is) sorry that they decided to make life miserable for a wealthy preteen  girl and her mother. It's never a good sign when your adversary and her mother are photographed as part of a human interest story in the New York Times. You can find a link to the story here.http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/a-start-up-takes-on-procter-gamble-over-a-name/?scp=1&sq=willa&st=cse

In a nutshell, Willa, an  8 year old girl complains to her mother about not wanting to use kids shampoo. This is aha moment for Willa's mom,  Christine Prunier. Fast forward three years. Mom has developed a line of bath products and skincare products targeted directly at preteen girls. And the brand name for this line of ducts? WILLA, of course.
Ms. Prunier also developed a design to accompany the brand. And she sought to federally register Willa and Design  with the US Trademark Office. No problem said the Trademark Office. Big Problem said Procter & Gamble. P & G  owns   the brand WELLA, as used on a line of shampoo products sold  primarily though hair salons. P & G tried to stop Willa and her mom from federally registering their WILLA and  Design trademark.
Here's where the story gets interesting. Turns out Ms. Prunier is a woman of means. After getting advice from a family y friend, she filed a lawsuit against P & G in NYC. Ms. Prunier is asking for a finding that the term  WILLA used with a charming design of a young girl, does not legally infringe the term WELLA. Oh by the way, she asked for a jury trial.
When I first read this story I immediately thought of how my son kicks my butt at basketball, baseball and chess. Whenever he whips me I tell him (bursting with pride) "Son, with you, when I lose I win and when I win I win." But the reverse is also true if you are Procter & Gamble.  When you take on an 11 year old girl, whether you win or lose, you lose.

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