A Weave Is Not A Toy: Toys R Us Opposes Hair Extension Company Trademark

from the annoyed-are-me dept

When we encounter stories of trademark bullying over broad language, it’s fairly common to find that the fight is between a large corporate entity pushing around a much smaller one. This case is no different. For some reason, retail toy giant Toys R Us is apparently opposing the trademark registration of a small Miami-area hair extension company.

Hair Are Us, a popular hair extension business in midtown Miami, has drawn the attention of Toys R Us, one of the world’s largest retail toy chains. The parent company of Toys R Us, Geoffrey LLC, filed an opposition to Hair Are Us’ trademark application. In the opposition, the company alleges Hair Are Us infringes on its established trademarks.

Geoffrey LLC apparently has a registered trademark on the “R Us” phrase and is suggesting that this trademark is in conflict with Hair Are Us. But, given both the business that Toys R Us is in and the very fame the company has for being in that business, it seems ridiculous to request that the Miami company’s “Are Us” name is going to somehow confuse consumers into thinking the hair extension business was in any way affiliated with the toy retailer. And because trademark law includes provisions that companies must be competing within the same market in order for infringement to occur, it’s difficult to see exactly why Toys R Us is pushing around a small hair extension business at all.

Of course, the usual excuses are trotted out when pressed on the question.

Toys R Us declined to comment for this story, but in court filings the company argued that Hair Are Us sounds too similar and could deceive the public into thinking it is connected to Toys R Us. The toy retailer also said allowing Hair Are Us to trademark would dilute its famous brand which has been in existence since 1960.

Trademark experts say Toys R Us has a legal duty to police its brand, but the growing hair company contends its name is different enough from Toys R Us and that the toy giant should back off.

The excuse that brands have to actively police their trademarks is always the excuse for these types of things, but, as in this case, that argument is often false. Brands must police actual infringing instances, not every instance of anything even close to similar uses. The difference is one that allows a small hair extension company to exist, as it represents no threat to a major toy retailer. It’d be nice to see a large company like Toys R Us acknowledge that, for once.

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Companies: hair are us, toys r us

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Comments on “A Weave Is Not A Toy: Toys R Us Opposes Hair Extension Company Trademark”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

These lawyers are taking a page from the “security theater” playbook – tell the client all the bad things that could happen, don’t mention the likelihood of the bad thing actually happening is minuscule. Collect inflated payments, and push for a larger budget to keep the wolves away.

TL;DR – The behavior of these lawyers is unbeweaveable.

cpt kangarooski says:

Trademark infringement requires confusion but trademark dilution does not. Dilution merely requires a famous brand and a likelihood of either blurring (association with other goods or services) or tarnishment (association with something bad for the mark’s reputation). This is a fairly clear case of blurring, and it just doesn’t matter that no one would be confused for an instant.

Now, dilution is a stupid law, which incorrectly treats marks as being protectable in their own right and not merely protectable for the sake of consumer protection, as is the case with infringement. But it’s on the books and well-established and is not going anywhere anytime soon, so I don’t find Toys Backwards R Us’ actions surprising here.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

I dunno; I can see a legitimate chance of consumer confusion here, especially if you heard about Hair Are Us verbally (a radio ad, for example) and didn’t see that their name was spelled differently. Any reasonable person’s first thought in that situation would be that the people behind Toys R Us were expanding into a new market.

Anonymous Coward says:

…a case to be made that the hair company is piggybacking off Toys R Us’s branding…

Can’t these companies realize that can be a benefit for both sides?

An example of peaceful coexistence: Kroger – the food market giant – operates a unit in Arizona called Fry’s Food Stores. Fry’s Electronics also has stores in Arizona. These are two completely different companies, yet I encounter folks who think both are under the same ownership simply because of the Fry’s name. AFAIK there has never been anything said, let alone any legal action, between the two companies regarding their names.

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