Two former college roommates who created a successful clothing line under the trademark “Rhode” sued model Hailey Bieber on Tuesday, saying they were creating market confusion by marketing a skincare line under the name Rhode.
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court asked a judge to call trademark infringement and prohibit Bieber from selling or marketing products bearing the Rhode name. It also claimed unspecified damages.
According to the lawsuit, court intervention was necessary because Hailey Bieber is a celebrity with more than 45 million Instagram followers who launched her skincare line last week and filed trademark applications to sell clothing.
Hailey Bieber is married to singer Justin Bieber, and the lawsuit said her husband promoted her business to his 243 million Instagram followers, generating 1.5 million likes with a single post. Her lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Purna Khatau and Phoebe Vickers are trying to protect the company they started in 2014 when they quit their day jobs to create a high-end clothing and accessories line targeting “feminine, confident and well-traveled women.”
Since then, their products have been featured in Vogue, worn worldwide in stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, and worn by celebrities like Beyonce, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna. Sales are expected to reach $14.5 million this year, the lawsuit said.
On the day her product was launched, Hailey Bieber said in a Forbes story that she was having a “very hard time” with “a world of media that likes to perpetuate women against women,” according to the lawsuit.
“But the reality is that the ‘world of the media’, which Ms Bieber describes, is at her disposal. And she has chosen to use it to squash a woman- and minority co-founded brand that just can’t compete with her immense fame and following,” the lawsuit said.
When her product line launched on June 15, Hailey Bieber appeared in “Good Morning America” on ABC and “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on NBC, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said confusion and damage to the brand started by Khatau and Vickers is already rife and it has only taken days for some consumers to believe the 8-year-old company is trading the name of the new competitor rather than the other way around.