I am a young twenty-something who has always been passionate about three things: fashion, beauty and business! I currently work in PR which I am thoroughly enjoying as there is always variety to my day. But, 2014 was the year I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship and launch an idea I was stalling on… Chaela Rose beachwear.
There are so many things that you prepare yourself for when launching your fashion business, but no matter how ready you think you are, receiving a letter from a large well-known brand that could harm your business, and threatening an intellectual property battle, would shock anyone. So what happens when a fashion start-up is told that the unique name created for their brand, is an infringement on a big brand’s trademark? It happened to Michaela Anderson last year, and she shared her journey with us to inform others.
I love going on holidays, whether it’s a girls’ holiday to Cancun or a family holiday to Greece. I also enjoy pre-holiday shopping and getting my beauty treatments. This is where the idea for Chaela Rose came about, I wanted to launch a beachwear brand that spoke to the confident, stylish and glamorous woman.
Chaela Rose is my first business, which means that I am learning something new everything day. I didn’t go to university to study business, but I have used Google, seminars and websites such as Utelier to further my knowledge of the fashion business. The number one way I’m learning is just going through it: enjoying the process, making mistakes, learning from them and celebrating the successes.
One of the biggest things I have learnt so far is to pay attention to the legal side of business! This is something I came across after attending a WAHNails Power Lunch where they discussed the law and trademarks. I figured I needed to start legally securing Chaela Rose as mine. I bought the .com and .co.uk for Chaela Rose, then registered the social media domains on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so it would be available when I wanted to launch the brand.
After researching trademarks and the different classes that I would need, in order to own Chaela Rose, I thought it would be best to have a phone conversation with the IP team at ipo.gov.uk. They answered my questions, and I then filed an application to register Chaela Rose in ‘Class 25’, which covers clothing, beachwear, bikinis, flip flops, and more.
The application cost £200 and I was reassured that it was a simple process with a low percentage of people getting theirs rejected. I checked that there were no trademarks similar to mine – there were none – so I filed the application in May 2014, and started the three to four-month wait for my registration certificate. Then I would know that I owned the name.
One month into the process, I received a letter from an international fashion retailer, who told me that I was infringing their trademark and that it would lead to a court action if I did not withdraw my trademark, and agree not to use my name. The letter startled me: this huge brand seemed to be prepared to take me to court because my name was, in their opinion, too similar to theirs. My first thought was “But I am a start-up!” After speaking with my mentor, I decided to seek legal advice.
Google came in handy as I looked into lawyers and their fees. My heart dropped when I saw many of the fees starting from £200 an hour. But I believed in my brand, believed in myself and believed that it would be worth it. I got in contact with the legal firm Lewis Silkin through my current employment, and they also provided a free 30-minute consultation phone call.
Getting legal advice
The call left me feeling confident and with a better understanding of my legal standpoint. The lawyer picked apart the big brand’s position and told me that I could beat them. I had a tight budget but decided to take on Lewis Silkin to help me secure Chaela Rose as my trademark. After all, Chaela Rose was not a name picked out from the air. It was a composition of my name Michaela and my grandma’s name Rose. My grandma is a fashion designer, milliner and a source of inspiration.
Lewis Silkin understood that I had a limited budget, and advised that I could gather some of the evidence that would support my case on my own, and leave everything else in their capable hands. I continued to work on Chaela Rose but I didn’t want to focus on branding just in case I lost the right to my name. My lawyer, Aaron Newell, provided me with regular updates on the progress of my intellectual property battle with the big brand.
It was now summer. We had sent a strong letter back to the big brand’s lawyers, and they had not replied, so the situation wasn’t really moving. There was a three-month window for them to take action against my trademark application, and once that deadline passed, Chaela Rose would be legally mine! The deadline was fast approaching, and I was panicking whilst my lawyer was calm and professional – this is his speciality I suppose!
A couple days before the deadline, the big brand finally replied offering a settlement – a complete reversal of their aggressive first letter. My legal team and theirs then finalised the agreement, preventing my fees from escalating.
I was happy to meet the terms of the agreement, and even happier to receive the registration certificate from my lawyer in October 2014, confirming that Chaela Rose was legally mine.
What I learned
This was a valuable lesson in business which has taught me three things:
- Understand and research the legalities of starting a business;
- Have a budget in the financial plan for the legal issues and for anything unexpected (the process cost me more than £1000); and
- Have belief in yourself and your vision.
If you have experienced an intellectual property battle in your fashion business, what was the outcome? Tell us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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