Last year in late October 2011, I received a letter of demand from a lawyer representing a company (not known in the fashion industry) whom was stating that Moxie Minx Clothing and it's unregistered trademark Moxie Minx was infringing their registered trademark. In the letter they were claiming that Moxie Minx was trying to "pass themselves off as" them and that our logo, website and branding was identical or deceptively similar to theirs. They were demanding that Moxie Minx Clothing was to immediately stop using the name Moxie Minx, stop using our domain names, a similar word and similarity in both our logos. And within 2 weeks cancel the business registration of Moxie Minx Clothing. So since I run an Internet business, basically shut the whole business down.
It is an understatement to say that I was in complete shock after reading said letter. Here I was just happily running my small business, everything was going smoothly, totally unaware that my company could be potentially doing anything to cause any trouble. It seemed very strange that another company could just send a letter written on their behalf and just like that shut down my business, so of course I seeked legal advice.
It became clear quite quickly that the other company had Moxie Minx in their sights for a while and put some actions into place to making their case against my company appear stronger and leaving us unable to remove them from the trademark classification in clothing and clear the way for us. I hired some wonderful lawyers to help me with this dispute and decided that I wouldn't be bullied into shutting down my business by a larger company and loose what I had worked so hard to achieve without a fight.
Over a couple of months with many letters back and forth from the lawyer representing Moxie Minx Clothing and the other companies lawyer, we tried to negotiate with the other company and reach an agreement and compromise that would suit both companies. I was happy to get rid of the colour pink from our site and change our logo and other similarities we shared, I just didn't want to loose the name which I had worked so hard to build. Some of our customers may have noticed at the start of this year our logo changed and so did the colour on our website etc.
There were some similarities in the general look of our businesses, but there are many female orientated businesses that can have a similar look and use styles and colours that appeal to female consumers. It was never my intention to have Moxie Minx Clothing confuse other companies consumers by sounding and looking similar. I wanted to build my own brand and was happy to amend any mistakes I may have made along the way, but just wanted to keep the brand name the same. The other company stated that they intended to launch their own fashion label early in 2011, so they didn't want Moxie Minx confusing their consumers with their intended fashion label. Due to the nature of their business, myself and others representing my company thought that this was false and I am still yet to see this said fashion label launch....
Unfortunately the other company did not agree to any of the concessions I had made. I felt like we had given even more than we should have already, for the reason that did have some similarities, but it was never proven in court that Moxie Minx had in fact infringed their trademark. I respect their decision to want to fight my company, because they are protecting their brand also. I don't believe that my company having a similar name could ruin their reputation, or that consumers would think that we were the same entity. Our name contained words both words from the English dictionary with meaning behind them also. It doesn't seem fair that they could have just agreed with changes made to my branding and overall look, but I suppose I understand...? .
After the negotiations, the other company was/is still threatening to take me to court if I don't change the business name. Thousands of dollars have already been spent fighting this dispute and it's very costly for a small business. The hours and stress involved with it all have also been large parts of it all also. It was at the point that if this dispute went to court it could go either way, but financially the business isn't in the position to be able to take that risk if we were too loose. But to then try and stick me with their legals fees also? I personally thought that was just nasty to do that to a small business.
So the hunt started for a new name for the business regrettably, it was so hard to think of the business as being under another name. Eventually I found a brand name I was happy with, Powderpuff Boutique. And this time I did the right thing from the start and TRADEMARKED it! I found out quickly that many other businesses have made the very same mistake I made. I registered the business name, but never trademarked it. I studied fashion at TAFE and then started a lil business just doing what I love from home, whilst my son, Rocket was still young. I didn't undergo a business course, just toddled along, learning as I went.
Learn from my mistake if you own a business, you have to protect yourself and your company by trademarking!!!
I feel quite melancholy at the moment about relaunching the label under the new name. It's odd to leave Moxie Minx behind, but after so many months of stress and worry and it never being far from my mind, I am glad to have an ending (even if it's not a good one) and move on. One thing I will say, it's I am not sorry for one moment for fighting to keep my label's identity and standing up to a larger company.
I am excited by the great new logo designed by one of my wonderful girlfriends, Gen Stanfield and lovely new website by another lovely friend, Ashlee Adams. And a special thanks to Miss Bobbi from Pixel Fox Designs in QLD for all help with it all. A lot of work has gone into the new branding and I'm very thankful. Powderpuff Boutique is lucky to have lovely ladies behind it to make it look fabulous!!! The only way is up from here and with the changeover finally upon us, there will be more time to focus on the fun part of running the business and creating more vintage inspired fashions, which I initially set out to do, not deal with lawyers!
It comes to the part now that I have to thank all of my wonderful friends and family for supporting me during the legal dispute. Taking a genuine interest and generally caring about the outcome of it all. They all knew how much the label meant to me and how hard it was to leave Moxie Minx behind. THANK YOU xox
To all of our customers, thank you for supporting our lil Australian fashion label and I hope that everyone helps to spread the Powderpuff Boutique love and the word of our new brand name. Without our customers we wouldn't be where we are now. And I really hope for the support from others in the industry whom also share a love of vintage glamour to help my label continue letting people know we're still here, just with a gorgeous new look and branding.