THE world’s biggest cosmetic company is threatening to sue a tiny soap-making firm in Fife – claiming they own the term “naked”.
Paris-based L’Oreal issued the Naked Soap Company in Dalgety Bay a “notice of threatened opposition” yesterday (TUE).
The cosmetic giant, which has a market capitalisation of £88bn and whose “ambassadors” include former Girls Aloud star Cheryl and Hollywood actress Eva Longoria, claim they own the right to the word “naked” in relation to cosmetics.
The notice, on behalf of “L’Oreal S.A, whose head office is based in Paris, states: “I confirm that I wish to file this notice of threatened opposition and that a copy should be sent to the Trade Mark applicant.”
Local business, Naked Soap Company, who produce handmade soaps and bath bombs from a small, single-storey unit, said they are hiring a lawyer and plan to fight until the end.
Sharing an image of the letter on their Facebook page, Naked Soap Company wrote: “Wow.
“Turns out Loreal are trying to stop us from using our own company name. This is one fight we are not going to give up on.
“L’Oreal believe that they have the only rights to the term ‘Naked’ when it comes to personal care products.
“We know two other companies in the same boat.
They later added: “On the grounds that they believe they own the term ‘Naked’ in relation to cosmetics, which isn’t true.
“We will instruct a trademark lawyer as soon as formal opposition is received.
“Our family are ready to fight it. There are enough issues facing small businesses and Naked is here to stay.”
The news has prompted support from dozens of locals who praised the company for not backing down.
Adele Lynch wrote: “Imagine a world wide company like that feeling threatened by a wee soap company from Fife.”
Maria Hopper said: “I really don’t understand this. They are a multi million organisation.How will they benefit from trying to take down a family run business that sell handmade items with love.
“You guys are going places and that’s probably why they are threatened. It still doesn’t make sense when their main income is makeup.
“It would be different if you were pretending to be affiliated with them. You are a fab wee company. Please don’t be intimidated by this”
And Sarah- Louise Allen said: “That’s mental. Glad you are fighting it.”
The company has also launched a petition called Stop L’Oreal from damaging local, small business which has received over 300 signatures in the last 24 hours.
The petition, for Keith Brown MSP – Cabinet Minister for the Economy, states: “Naked Soap Company is a small, local family business based in Dalgety Bay, Fife – dedicating to passionately making handmade bath products for or customers.
“We believe in creating safe, natural products whilst providing a local, friendly service, our customers are our shareholders, our shareholders are our employees – we are a true local cooperative working towards creating local jobs, boosting the local economy and providing high quality products.
“No global corporation should hold the power over small businesses due to a single word – a word that determines and personalises a business.
“Yes, it may be easy to change a business name, but if that name encompasses the business’ personality, it’s ethics and it’s origins then it’s not an option at all.
“Corporations should not be able to determine the future over local business due to a single term. We want the IPO to tighten the rules on when oppositions can be made and the nature of such oppositions.
“Allowing global corporations to swamp local business in red tape, expensive legal action and threaten them with releasing their name should not be permitted.
“Stand by the Naked Soap Company in standing up against L’Oreal’s bully tactics and prove that global corporations cannot eradicate the existence of local business.”
Rachel Wilkinson-Duffy, a lawyer handling L’Oreal’s claim, today confirmed the dispute was in relation to the word “naked” but added: “We are not able to make any comment on behalf of the client.”
L’Oreal were reported yesterday to being sued by a former monk.
Former Roman Catholic monk Dennis Wyrzykowski, his cosmetics company Carmel Laboratories, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have teamed against L’Oreal saying they stole the groups anti-ageing technology product.
According to Forbes, Liliane Bettencourt, principal shareholder of L’Oreal, is the richest woman in the world.
She is also the fourteen richest person in the world with an approximate net worth of US $44.3bn.
Naked Soap today revealed they are worth about £250,000 – one 352,000th of the value of L’Oreal. The firm said it had spent £120,000 on start-up costs, all of which was at risk because of the challenge.
Owner Gary-Lee Rushforth, 28, who employs 12 people, said: “We’ve been going for about six months. We’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the business.
“We chose Naked because it describes who we are – no nasties, no preservatives.
“We filed the name and companies have two months to oppose. That two months is up next week an we got an IPO to say that L’Oreal has put in a threat to oppose. Why did thy wait so long to oppose?
“We think it’s ridiculous. How do you trademark a single word? It’s like trademarking ‘happy’, you just can’t do that.
“We checked the name with Company House and there was no name in relation to Naked, that is why Company House let us use it.
“They’re a massive company and were a tiny one in Fife.”
He added: “If we have to close it gets rid of everything we’ve worked for, this is what we are.
“Invested in the brand there has been roughly £120,000 and the company was recently valued at £250,000.
“It would cost at least the same again, probably more to restart because we have to change our vans, uniforms, everything.
“We did a bit of digging and there’s a couple of other companies on the same position and they’re genuinely frightened so they’re going to rebrand.”
Mr Rushforth insisted the firm would carry on using its name.
“I don’t think it’s right that a small company is creating jobs and providing a service and they’re sitting in Paris doing this. So that’s why we’ve petitioned Keith Brown.”
“We looked into it and there was a company in England that didn’t fight it so they had to close.
“Our Facebook has been going mad with loads of customers saying we have their support.
“We offered 40% of shares to customers so a lot of customers own part of the company.
“A lot of people have went away from the big brands so we wanted to reward them.
“There’s 12 jobs relying on this but it’s not just about us, we want them to change how you can oppose trademarks.
“We want them to change how big companies have a monopoly.”
A spokeswoman for L’Oreal said this afternoon: “We have no comment at this time.”