Imagine my surprise—as a name developer, beauty-brand fan, and trademark aficionada—when I saw this sign in my Oakland, California, neighborhood back in March.
It wasn’t the prospect of a new nail spa that piqued my interest; our local commercial strip already has dozens of mani-pedi shoppes. No, it was “Aveda” that caught my eye. A major beauty brand—in our little neighborhood? Not worthy!
Now, if you don’t buy cosmetics or patronize salons you may not be aware of Aveda, so allow me to explain. Aveda was founded in 1978 in Blaine, Minnesota, and is still based there—although in 1997 it was acquired for $300 million by global cosmetics conglomerate Estée Lauder. Aveda, which sells skin- and hair-care products in its own stores and in professional salons around the world, is known for organic ingredients and environmental leadership. “Aveda” is pronounced “a-vay-da”; according to company lore, the name is a Sanskrit word meaning “all knowledge.”
Although I was familiar with the brand, I hadn’t heard of Aveda nail products, let alone nail “spas.” But that sign in my neighborhood certainly resembled the Aveda wordmark. Yep, it looked legit.
Maybe, I reasoned, my neighborhood was going to be a test case for a new brand extension. Thrilling!
Alas, my dreams of brand grandeur and a really great pedicure were dashed a few weeks later when the permanent sign went up:
“Aveda” had morphed into “Aveida” and “spa” into “salon.” Even the URL had changed—from avedanailspa.com to aveidanailspa.com … and, a little later, to aveidanailsalon.com. The email I received from the business did not suggest a big, Minnesota-based parent company.
However you spelled it, something peculiar was going on here. It was becoming obvious to me that Aveda of Minnesota—and of Estée Lauder—was not behind this new enterprise. This looked instead like a business that had been bootstrapped by earnest immigrants with a less-than-solid grasp on English and on the US legal system. In short, it looked like trademark infringement, and the late-in-the-game spelling change was not a solution: I’m a name developer, not a lawyer, but I strongly suspect “Aveida” wouldn’t pass the likelihood-of-confusion test.
For the record, I contacted the real Aveda twice to request a comment. I’m still waiting for a response. Meanwhile, what would you lawyers do about this?