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.

Filed Under: hair extension, r us, toys, trademark, weave
Companies: hair are us, toys r us


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  • icon
    velox (profile), 19 Nov 2015 @ 11:27pm

    As long as lawyers continue to get paid for being disingenuous, this stuff will go on.
    Hell, even in-house counsel has to look busy if they expect to keep collecting salary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Nov 2015 @ 11:57pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    gdif, 20 Nov 2015 @ 12:05am

    It'd be nice to see a large company like Toys R Us acknowledge that, for once.

    Perhaps there are some companies that have. How would we know?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 20 Nov 2015 @ 12:17am

    I Drive An Auris RS ...

    ... should I worry?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ender, 20 Nov 2015 @ 12:52am

    Droids B Us?

    The first time I've heard of Toys R Us was when reading about how they went after Sierra for daring to name a fictional store in the game Droids R Us - about 3 decades ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 20 Nov 2015 @ 1:34am

    As they say:

    He who has the last lawyer, bests the laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2015 @ 5:19am

    who wouldn't buy hair extensions from them because they think they also run a toy store?

    God this is dumb

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 20 Nov 2015 @ 5:21am

    I'm pretty sure this is how their attorney's logic went:

    Toys R Us is owned by Geoffrey LLC.
    Geoffrey LLC also owns Babies R Us.
    Some babies have hair.

    Sue!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    cpt kangarooski, 20 Nov 2015 @ 5:39am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dr Duck (profile), 20 Nov 2015 @ 6:11am

    Hair are us? C'mon...

    Meh. "Hair We Are" would be a much better name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2015 @ 11:17am

      Re: Hair are us? C'mon...

      Absolutely. Maybe "Hair We Are Now, Patronize Us" or "Right Hair, Right Now". I'll get away from music: since they're in Miami they could go with a pirate theme and name the place "Hair There Be Monsters".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 20 Nov 2015 @ 6:58am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 20 Nov 2015 @ 7:01am

      Re:

      Also worth considering: does anyone believe that they would have chosen that particular name, with that specific ungrammatical construction, were it not for Toys R Us being a household name that's been familiar to most Americans since childhood?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2015 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re:

        I kind of agree. I don't agree with your original point about thinking Toys R Us might be branching out, but there's definitely a case to be made that the hair company is piggybacking off Toys R Us's branding.

        Whether that's any kind of important issue (which I doubt), is another matter.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2015 @ 8:08am

    ...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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ed, 20 Nov 2015 @ 2:14pm

    Fight Back

    Has anyone considered suing Toys R US for grammar violations?
    Think of the children...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2015 @ 4:07pm

    Will they take offence at a car dealership named Utes 'R' Us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Maragret Pennington, 3 Dec 2015 @ 3:23am

    I also kind of agree..this stuff will go on. But according to http://marques.expert/ -the usual for infringement is extensive similarity. Big similarity manner a mean observer could identify that the second one takes copyrightable authorship from the first one. So the primary query is, what is copyrightable authorship?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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