Sometimes the beauty business can get ugly. If you’re fortunate enough to have a product that’s successful, you run the risk of it being copied or counterfeited.
Rea Ann Silva, the president and CEO of Rea.deeming Beauty, Inc., is finding this is an ongoing problem with her hit product, the Beautyblender make-up sponge applicator. Silva, a successful make-up artist who has worked with Vivica A. Fox, Sean Combs and photographer Annie Leibovitz, first introduced Beautyblender in 2003. Considered a category creator, it has grown to be a global best seller and the winner of six Allure Best of Beauty Awards. Retail sales for 2016 are projected to be in the $100 million range.
But as thrilled as Silva is with Beautyblender’s success, she is also realizing the increasing need to make sure others don’t infringe on the brand she’s worked so hard to build.
“It’s the responsibility of smaller companies to protect themselves and be aware. It should be part of your business plan. Competitors will take advantage if they can. And they will until you do something,” says Silva. “I have people in my company who just roam around the web looking for knockoffs and counterfeits.”
So about 18 months ago, when it was brought to her attention that Avon’s latest catalog featured a product called Beauty Blender that looked exactly like her applicator, Silva decided to take action.
First, Silva verified it was a knockoff and not the original being offered through Avon. “We sell to every country on the globe and I needed to make sure that we didn’t sell to them,” she says. After confirming this, the company retained the services of Greenberg Glusker, a Los Angeles law office, and accused Avon of trademark infringement. This spring, a settlement was announced in Rea.deeming Beauty’s favor.
“Prevailing against a company like Avon really just showed the world that we’re taking this seriously,” continues Silva. “There was an egregious offense. It was mutually understood that they were offending us and we had the right to protect our product. And we won.”
As part of the settlement, Avon admitted liability for infringing intellectual property rights and agreed that going forward it will not infringe upon the Beautyblender trademark or present any of its sponge make-up applicators as authentic Beautyblender products.
There was also a monetary reward. Though Silva won’t divulge the exact amount, she does say she is satisfied with the settlement. “It definitely covered all of our expenses, and then some—the sales loss, the attorney fees. We were compensated fairly,” she says.
But even more satisfying to Silva was the feeling of protecting her brand.
“For me, as an artist, as an innovator, the creator of something that started a category, it was most important that Beautyblender retain its reputation as the original product that it is,” says Silva, who recently received the Ben Franklin Technology Partners 2016 Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement. “I’m happy with the outcome. I’m happy that I’m able to sit here and talk about this with you. I’m happy that this can tell the story for anyone else who has created a product and feels helpless. They have a recourse if someone comes along and tries to copy them.”
For more on copyright issues, see Issue 116.