Friday, August 28, 2009

The battle of the Nude: L'Oreal and Stella McCartney coup a small win

You might have heard about it and it might have turned you off slightly. Bono's wife, Ali Hewson, 48, objected to the use of the word Nude in the newest Stella McCartney fragrance called STELLANUDE (a flanker to her bestselling scent), on the grounds that Nude was copyrighted by her, via Irish Nude Brands Ltd, a skincare line with ambitions to launch a fragrance in the future called Nude.
"In May 2008, when asked for permission to use the trade mark 'Nude' for a Stella McCartney perfume, Nude - though great admirers of Stella McCartney - respectfully refused as a Nude scent is forthcoming," the statement said. "Nude considers the launch of 'Stella Nude' by L'Oréal to be a clear infringement of Nude's trade mark. To protect their brand, Nude was forced to take the matter to the English High Court." [source]
A L’Oréal spokesperson confirmed that the legal case had been brought at the beginning of August: “Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Ltd can confirm that legal action was started against it and Stella McCartney Limited by Nude Brands Limited on 3rd August 2009 in London. The case is ongoing," the spokesperson said. [source]

It had made an impression to me because Nude by Bill Blass was a well-established name already (I suppose the trademark has expired) and on top of that the whole issue reminded me of the kerfufle on the word Peace involving a big and a small brand some time ago. The whole axis of the matter according to one source relied on the use of capitals in this case and it seemed like a fine legal point to entangle.

The news is that judge Christopher Floyd from the High Court has overruled possible blocks from Nude Brands Ltd. in favour of L'Oréal and Stella McCartney: NBL may win in the trademark trial set to take place some time next year (2010), but the judge ruled "it was not appropriate to block the launch of the StellaNude fragrance nor bring the trial date forward". He further elaborated: “The risk of confusion between NBL's products and SML's [Stella McCartney Limited] is, in my provisional view, small. The evidence does not show any real basis for supposing that a customer would be led into thinking that some form of association had been created between NBL and SML" [...] and an injunction could cause “massive disruption” to McCartney’s business. It was specified that the copyright infringement argument wasn't without merit into bringing to court however and the issue will disentangle completely in 2010.
The September launch of StellaNude is postponed, initially planned so as to coincide with the runways, and now costing a fortune in lost revenue. Still, the launch whenever it happens, is assured lots of press because of this.

Painting by Joseph Stella via encore-editions.com.
Ad via beautyeditor.com.au


  1. Alexandra12:41

    I really don`t understand this. Fragrance name is StellaNude, not Nude. Nude is such a normal word, how can you copyright a word like that in all forms. There was also Bijan Nude.

  2. A,

    you articulated well what bugs many of us! Apparently, people think that too many "nudes" (or whatever) in the market would confuse the consumers and thus try to be territorial.
    I suggest they start thinking up of more unusual word combinations or wordplays or something along those lines (but who is listening?)

  3. Call me a cynic but I think this is all to get our attention. I recall reading years ago in British Vogue or Harpers that Ali Hewson and Stella McCartney were friends. They certainly share an earth-friendly aesthetic. Unless they had a falling out and this is personal. The fact that this is all about money takes away from both of their "do good" attributes & makes them seem greedy.

    Everyone knows that this will end in nothing happening, except lots of free publicity and increased awareness of both brands. Hm.

  4. Jane,

    you're quite the smart one! :-)Although it would be terribly twisted of them, one can't put this beyond the scope of modern marketing techniques (Despite on some part personally thinking it harms the NBL image; they sound so petty!).
    I realise it's big business, launching a fragrance and such, and the giant behind SMC wouldn't let this fall off. So somehow I more or less expected this to turn ugly.

    And it's certainly true that the free publicity is increasing the lines written about both brands. I admit I hadn't even heard about Bono's wife brand before, just knew she was friendly with SMC!

    BTW, what is it about rock stars' wives launching their own skincare lines all of a sudden? There are at least a couple I can think of.

  5. antitesting18:20

    How Is It Stella McCartney has ANYTHING to do with Loreal.they are the BIGGEST Animal testers In the World.How could she not know this.Her Father alone should of said he didnt want the McCarney name associated with Animal testing,

  6. Anonymous18:20

    I'm curious about whether L'Oreal or any other corporation can 'own' the word 'Nude'. Book and song titles can't be owned. In fact Hove Perfumers of New Orleans has offered a fairly delightful summery fragrance named 'Nude' for at least 20 years I know of.


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