Chanel Suing a Woman Named Chanel for Naming a Spa After Herself – Wait, What Was That?
When you think of Karl Lagerfeld, you probably don't think "friendliest man alive," so is it any surprise that the brand he helms has a bit of a Regina George streak? Turns out that Chanel the fashion house is suing salon owner Chanel Jones for... naming her business after herself.
Jones owns Chanel's Salon in Merrillville, Indiana and is being sued for copyright infringement by the Paris-based design house. Chanel (the company) has bared its manicured claws, claiming that the name Chanel's Salon "infringes at least nine of its federally registered trademarks and is benefiting from the established reputation of the fashion company’s name, which is derived from the founding designer’s name, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel," according to The Fashion Law. Hm, because a tiny salon in Indiana is really posing a threat to Karl Lagerfeld's livelihood. Riiiiiight.
Although the law would seem to favor Jones on this one, the issue is fairly complicated because of how much the world "Chanel" conjures up the design label in the public conscious. Peacable Planet, Inc. v. Ty. Inc told The Fashion Law:
One of the concerns is a reluctance to forbid a person to use his own name in his own business. Supposing a man named Brooks opened a clothing store under his name, should this prevent a second Brooks from opening a clothing store under his own (identical) name even though consumers did not yet associate the name with the first Brooks's store? It should not.
However, the fact that the Chanel name is so instantly associated with the fashion label may actually override the name-exemption. "As recently as May 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the [USPTO] held that the Chanel mark 'enjoys widespread recognition among the general public and is a household name synonymous with high fashion and style and is therefore famous for dilution purposes,'" reads Chanel's statement, quoted by Vogue.
Basically, we have no idea who's winning this one. The lawsuit seems kind of unnecessary when you measure Chanel's legendary status against a small town salon, but... this is Chanel we're talking about. Are we really surprised?