Toys R Us Alleges Miami Company Infringes On Its Trademark
Hair Are Us, a popular hair extension business in midtown Miami, has drawn the attention of Toys R Us, one of the world’s largest retail toy chains.
The parent company of Toys R Us, Geoffrey LLC, filed an opposition to Hair Are Us' trademark application. In the opposition, the company alleges Hair Are Us infringes on its established trademarks.
Trademark experts say Toys R Us has a legal duty to police its brand, but the growing hair company contends its name is different enough from Toys R Us and that the toy giant should back off.
“We are two African-American women who basically picked ourselves up by the bootstraps and created something from nothing,” said Ashley Nicole Williams, co-owner of Hair Are Us.
The midtown Miami boutique has a silver and shimmery “glam motif.” A carousel of blue, turquoise and blonde wefted hair extensions sits on a counter. Straight, curly and slightly wavy wigs are perched on silver mannequin heads.
Williams said she and her business partner KhatRhabani started selling Malaysian, Indian and Brazilian hair extensions with an initial investment of $2,000. The ladies would sell the hair from the back of their cars in Atlanta.
They grew the Atlanta business into a brick-and-mortar store. A year later the Miami location followed, and in August the two women opened a third store in Los Angeles.
They filed to trademark their name Hair Are Us, but before the process was complete giant retailer Toys R Us stepped in earlier this year and opposed the trademark application.
Toys R Us declined to comment for this story, but in court filings the company argued that Hair Are Us sounds too similar and could deceive the public into thinking it is connected to Toys R Us.
The toy retailer also said allowing Hair Are Us to trademark would dilute its famous brand which has been in existence since 1960.
Toys R Us has a long track record of defending its family of “R Us” trademarks, including Babies R Us, Stickers R Us — even just “R Us” is trademarked.
“Toys R Us has been remarkably successful in winning cases under trademark infringement theories,” said John Malloy, a partner at Malloy & Malloy, an intellectual property law firm in Miami.
Malloy is not connected to this case, but he says any company that doesn’t police its trademark by contesting similar or identical names risks losing that trademark all together.
“The most classic example of abandonment by failure to police is the aspirin trademark,” said Malloy. “The aspirin trademark is owned by Bayer in most parts of the world, but they were considered to abandon that trademark in the United States by allowing so many others to use it.”
On a recent afternoon inside Hair Are Us, co-owner Ashley Nicole Williams said she knows this is not going to be an easy fight.
“What’s in a name for us? It’s our everything,” she said.
Hair Are Us has 141,000 followers on Instagram. Williams said the hair extension company attracts celebrity clients and everyday repeat customers.
Said Williams: “It’s our blood sweat and tears. It is our life. It’s our livelihood.”