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.