Making the rounds today on the Internet is a story about a pending lawsuit by Nina Ricci over the Twilight perfume that is currently being by sold by several vendors. The story is hitting wider today because it just made a celebrity blogger’s radar.
We’d like to preface this by saying that we have no knowledge of who signed what contract, and what exactly the contract stated. We also have no knowledge as to the exact status of the lawsuit: Are papers actually filed with the courts? Are the affected parties trying to reach an out-of-court settlement? We just don’t know. Here’s our sidelines, non-lawyer analysis.
- As far as we understand it, the two scents are entirely different, so this isn’t a suit over the scents.
- The bottle itself is highly similar to the Nina Ricci bottle. It varies slightly in color and in the engraving on the leaves.
- The outer packaging container is entirely different, so this isn’t about the outer packaging.
Question: OK, so what does that mean?
Answer: It depends what was in the original Nina Ricci contract. Did they contract for an original exclusive design and then patent that design (note we are not lawyers and the correct term here may be trademark/copyright/etc.)? It seems like a firm such as Nina Ricci would do this, but we just don’t know as they sure as heck aren’t putting the fine print of their contract out there.
It is not uncommon for a generic container to be used by any number of products. That container is then modified based on the company and product (Think of it as how some bottled waters are in very similar containers and only the label is different.) The same is true, to use a book related example, with the cover art of novels. Oftentimes you will see recycled cover art photshopped into a new design because the images were not a contracted exclusive.
Question: Who exactly is being sued?
Answer: We don’t know. We would assume it is whatever vendor supplied the bottle, as most likely they would be the party responsible for guaranteeing that they had the rights to supply the merchants that particular bottle. Nonetheless, we just don’t know.
Question: Could other companies/people be sued?
Answer: Anything is possible. For all we know this might go down several chains of subcontractors. In our opinion, what it is going to come down to in its most basic terms is this: Did the supplier have the rights to supply a similar item to multiple companies, or did Nina Ricci have an iron-clad exclusive?