May 11, 2020
By: Deborah Childress
It’s a case of when “cease and desist” doesn’t work.
In an intellectual trademark lawsuit filed with the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court on April 27, 2020, a story emerges of two competing retail beauty suppliers. It is rife with Plaintiff accusations of unfair competition, trademark dilution, and deceptive and unfair trade practices, along with copycatting “unique trade dress.”
Number 1NY Beauty Supply, Inc., doing business as “#1 NY Beauty Supply” is Plaintiff in the case, and is located on 34th Street South in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Defendant is NYBEAUTYTAM PA, LLC, located on Busch Boulevard in Tampa, Florida, with a second location established on 78th Street, according to customer claims included in the lawsuit’s complaint. Both companies sell wigs, extensions, and other beauty-related products.
The Plaintiff opened in August 2017 and has developed a Facebook following of 7,433 individuals using the trademark “#1 NY Beauty Supply,” and an Instagram account trafficked by almost 11,000 users using “#1NYBeauty.” The lawsuit declares that first-time use of these trademarks on social media establishes that the Plaintiff has common law trademark protection.
In February 2020, the Plaintiff alleges, customers purchased several items from another beauty supply retail store called “NY Beauty Tampa.” According to the customers, the store was located in Tampa. Assuming the Tampa store was affiliated with the Plaintiff, the customers contacted Number 1NY Beauty Supply, Inc., in St. Petersburg to complain about the quality of the products they’d purchased. Shortly thereafter, more disgruntled customers followed. Meanwhile, NY Beauty Tampa was “tagging” the Plaintiff’s brick-and-mortar location on its social media web pages to “indicate Defendant is affiliated with Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit’s complaint.
NY Beauty Tampa also used red shopping bags that looked very similar to the Plaintiffs. According to the lawsuit, this further caused customer confusion and misleading actions that damaged the Plaintiff’s reputation.
The Plaintiff then discovered through a customer that NY Beauty Tampa had established a second brick-and-mortar location on 78th Street.
A “Cease and Desist” letter was issued to NY Beauty Tampa demanding they cease using the name NY Beauty Supply Tampa or any variation thereof on social media, website and store signage; stop providing customers with red bags, and stop informing customers they are affiliated with #1 NY Beauty Supply. According to the lawsuit, “Defendant refused to comply with Plaintiff’s demands.”
Exhibits in the case displaying social media communications with customers as well as content from NYBEAUTYTAMPA’s social presence appeared to support the Plaintiff’s allegations. One customer referred to the Defendant as a “fake.”
Kalpesh J. Patel is the Plaintiff’s attorney and has demanded a trial jury. He could not be reached for comment. Judge Scott Steven Stephens, Division L, has been assigned to the case.