Kim Kardashian's launch of her new skincare brand SKKN BY KIM is proving to be less smooth than desired.
New York businesswoman and esthetician Cydnie Lunsford has sued the reality star for trademark infringement over the "SKKN" name. Kardashian's lawyer, Michael Rhodes, denied any wrongdoing by his client and has vowed to fight the case in court.
"We think the case is less about the law of trademarks and more about trying to leverage a settlement by threatening to harm Ms. Kardashian's name and reputation," he said in a statement to E! News. "That's not going to work and we look forward to presenting our case in court."
In her lawsuit, filed June 28, Lunsford states that her company, Beauty Concepts, has "conducted business continuously under the SKKN+ brand in Washington, DC and/or New York, New York, since at least August 2018." She notes that the group has "used the SKKN+ Marks" in connection with offering high end salon services as well as products sold in a physical retail store and online. The domain www.skknplus.com and the company's Instagram page were also started in 2018, with the first post containing its SKKN+ logo and advertising skincare services.
"Beauty Concepts actively seeks to advertise, market to, and serve clients of all genders, races, and ethnicities, specializing in corrective skincare for all skin types," the lawsuit states. "Notably, Beauty Concepts is a Black-owned business and seeks to ensure its services specifically serve Black women and other women of color, who have been historically underserved, excluded, and diminished by the beauty industry."
However, as Kardashian's lawyer told E! News, "We applaud Ms. Lunsford for being a small business owner and following her dreams. But that doesn't give her the right to wrongfully claim that we've done something wrong."
On March 28, 2021, Beauty Concepts filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark its SKKN+ design mark, or stylized logo, for use in beauty salon and skincare services, records show.
On March 30, 2021, Kardashian filed several trademark applications to be able to use the term "SKKN BY KIM" for skincare products and a variety of merchandise. The following July, the reality star filed to trademark just the word "SKKN" for use in skincare products, without any specific styling, according to a USPTO filing.
Lunsford's lawsuit states that her company learned in July 2021 that Kim was "going to launch a new skin-care line under the brand SKKN and/or SKKN BY KIM" and that Beauty Concepts then reached out to her team to "request that they abandon their plans to use a mark incorporating the most significant elements of Beauty Concepts' mark SKKN+, namely the letters 'SKKN.'"
"Mid-last year, we received a letter from Beauty Concepts, an esthetician studio in Brooklyn owned by Ms. Lunsford," Kardashian's lawyer said. "In its letter, Beauty Concepts claimed to own rights to a logo made up of SKKN+, and had just filed for trademark protection for that logo. To our knowledge, Beauty Concepts sold no products under the SKKN+ name."
Rhodes continued, "Beauty Concepts asked that we drop the SKKN name. Of course we said no."
Lunsford's filing states that after negotiations with Kardashian's team "failed," Beauty Concepts began its legal efforts to stop them from usurping its intellectual property rights." Several months ago, they filed opposition proceedings with the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to try to stop Kardashian from using the name "SKKN BY KIM." Their case is pending, records show.
Kardashian's lawyer said that "several times we reached out to Beauty Concepts, trying to find a sensible path to coexistence. We pointed out that running a small esthetician business in Brooklyn does not give it the right to shut down a global skin care line." He added, "Since we've done nothing wrong, we stood our ground."
On June 21, Kim officially launched her SKKN BY KIM brand.
Meanwhile, Lunsford's lawsuit also states that on June 26, Beauty Concept filed new applications to trademark the SKKN+ word mark—which does not require the name to be styled a certain way—for use in connection with store services featuring skincare products, plus skincare, salon, spa and esthetician services.
Lunsford is suing Kardashian for trademark infringement and unfair competition, unlawful deceptive acts and business practices, civil conspiracy, common law unjust enrichment and reverse confusion—alleging that Kardashian's "actions have led and are likely to continue to lead the public to conclude, incorrectly," that Lunsford's "goods originate from" the reality star. Lunsford is suing for an undisclosed amount of damages and has demanded a jury trial.
"Were it not for the willful infringement and usurpation of the SKKN+ Brand by [Kim's team], Ms. Lunsford's and Beauty Concepts' growth trajectory and future success were assured," the lawsuit states. "They are now in jeopardy due to the willful and improper actions of the Defendants."