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Rihanna, the pop mogul, and fashion and fragrance designer, has found herself facing a trademark infringement lawsuit over the name of her latest fragrance: Kiss by Rihanna. A cosmetics company named Kiss is asserting that Rihanna's latest fragrance, which they have absolutely nothing to do with manufacturing or selling, violates their trademark of the name Kiss as it relates to beauty products.
The Kiss cosmetics company has stated that Rihanna did not obtain permission or a license to use their trademarked name in connection with her fragrance, nor did she comply with the company's requests that Rihanna stop making and selling the fragrance under that name. As such, they had to file a lawsuit against the pop star.
A Rose by Any Other Name, Doesn't Infringe Trademarks
A trademark is a business's way of protecting their own, or their products', reputation and/or name. For example, Burger King can't go around selling a chicken sandwich or burger and name it a "Big Mac" because consumers would likely find it confusing, and it would be unfair to McDonalds which has spent millions on advertising, promotion, and probably scientific research, to develop and sell their world famous Big Mac.
Trademark infringement is a rather complex and nuanced area of law. Generally though, it requires that an individual or business use a name or phrase that has been registered by another company for use associated with a product, venture, or service. Additionally, the offending use must also in some way have the ability to confuse consumers. Essentially, this means that while Burger King can't make a "Big Mac," they actually already got away with making a "Big King" burger.
Kiss by Rihanna
Although Rihanna will likely assert the argument that consumers are unlikely to confuse Kiss by Rihanna with products sold by the Kiss cosmetics company, this argument may be problematic. Even though the products do not fall into the exact same category, like the burger example above, Burger King couldn't claim their Big Mac doesn't infringe because it's a chicken sandwich.
Additionally, just because the names are slightly different, particularly as Rihanna's fragrance's full name is "Kiss by Rihanna," this may not be enough because the product categories of fragrances and cosmetics are rather closely related, and many of the Kiss cosmetics company's products contain the company's name.