Mixed Chicks, a company that provides hair care products for multiracial women, filed the complaint against Sally Beauty in the California Central District in March 2011. Mixed Chicks argued that Sally Beauty's "Mixed Silk" product line infringed its trademark and the trade dress of its product packaging.
The complaint also alleged that consumers who searched for "mixed chicks" on Sally Beauty's website would only get results for the "Mixed Silk" line of products, which Mixed Chicks claimed caused confusion between the two product lines.
According to the complaint, Sally Beauty "programmed or caused the search engine on the Sally Beauty website to operate in this manner to cause confusion or mistake, or deceive as to the origin of the Mixed Silk hair care products with the intent to benefit from Mixed Chicks' reputation and goodwill."
Mixed Chicks claimed that the "Mixed Silk" line appeared shortly after Mixed Chicks decided not to sell their products at Sally Beauty Supply. They also claimed that the product is inferior to their own and is sold at a much lower cost.
When explaining why they filed the complaint, co-founder Kim Etheredge said, "We've worked hard to build the reputation of the Mixed Chicks product as one of high quality. We want our clients to know that the Mixed Silk products have no connection with our products, and Mixed Chicks has not endorsed or authorized them."
The jury awarded Mixed Chicks $8 million in damages on November 2. Sally Beauty offered the $8.5 million settlement in anticipation of a request for attorney's fees and disgorgement enhancements. Sally Beauty also agreed to stop selling the infringing products as part of the settlement.
Mixed Chicks' trademark attorney hopes that the case will encourage smaller companies to fight against those that infringe trademarks despite the high cost of litigation.
"Fighting a large company is always an economic decision, but if the plaintiff has been injured, generally juries and judges get it right, so [smaller companies] should have faith in the process," Parker said.