California Trademark Attorney® Blog

Mary Kay, Michael Kors Battle Over MK Trademark

February 14, 2013

cosmetics.jpgCalifornia - Mary Kay Inc. filed a lawsuit against the clothing company Michael Kors LLC claiming the company is promoting competing products with the founder's initials, which breaches an agreement the two companies made to manage the use of similar trademarks.

The cosmetics company alleged that Michael Kors filed applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in an attempt to register the trademark MK for use on charms to be affixed to Estee Lauder cosmetic gift bags. Mary Kay claims this is in direct violation of the coexistence agreement the two companies struck, which only allows Mary Kay to use the MK trademark on makeup and other cosmetic goods.

Michael Kors first attempted to register an MK trademark in 2003. Mary Kay already owned a variety of MK trademarks and challenged Michael Kors application with the USPTO, according to the complaint.

In order to coexist in the market without any threat of trademark infringement, the two companies struck a deal in 2005 that resolved their differences and limited use of the MK trademark by Michael Kors. One of the terms prevented Michael Kors from using MK to promote any kind of cosmetic products.

Another term of the agreement prohibited Michael Kors from using the MK trademark unless the company's full name was spelled out near the trademarked initials. Mary Kay claims that Michael Kors asked to modify the agreement in 2011 to allow the company to create a circular charm with the MK trademark.

Even though Mary Kay did not agree to Michael Kors' request to use the trademark without the full name of the company, Michael Kors proceeded to apply for the MK charm trademark. Later Mary Kay learned that Michael Kors planned to use the charms on cosmetic bags that would be sold by Estee Lauder in several retail stores, including Macy's and Nordstrom.

"Because these breaches concern the wrongful use of a valuable trademark that Michael Kors contractually agreed not to use in these ways, the damage to Mary Kay from Michael Kors' breach is irreparable, immeasurable and not solely compensable by monetary damages," the complaint said.

Mary Kay is asking the court to force Michael Kors to honor the agreement it made with Mary Kay and withdraw its applications for the MK charm trademark.