In the fashion business, branding is everything, and well-made merchandise is snapped up in a heartbeat. South Florida native and self proclaimed Bikini Geek, Candice Galek decided to parlay her love of swimwear into an online retail shop called Bikini Luxe. What started as a resource for swimwear grew into a popular shopping site with swimwear, accessories and clothing for men and women alike. In the beginning of the business, Galek dealt with a trademark infringement case in which a foreign company stole her brand and began selling knockoff swimwear.
(Photo courtesy of Candice Galek)
The copyright infringement came to Galek’s attention when a customer tried returning an item bought through the fraudulent website. “A customer wrote to us trying to return a knockoff bikini that we did not carry in our store. We then found that they had copied our domain name and added a ‘swim’ to the end of it — bikiniluxeswim. This was extremely shocking on a number of levels, the absolute worst part being that they were selling a fake product.”
Once the trademark infringement was discovered, Galek took action and discovered that the case may not be easy. “Although we had been in business for a a few months, we did not have the trademark in place yet as it generally takes six months to a year and sometimes even longer to finalize a trademark. Upon consulting with a trademark attorney, we made the decision to not do anything until the trademarking was complete with USPTO. This was one of the hardest things to do; to just sit on your hands and not do anything when someone is out there ruining your reputation is unbelievably hard. We suffered a number of negative reviews on review websites such as Yelp, Facebook and Google from upset customers who were trying to send their fake swimsuits back and confusing their company with ours. We were able to successfully remove almost all of them, but we were constantly battling with them.”
Bikini Luxe had to wait until its trademark was firmly in place to take action. However, the company was able to resolve the issue. “After we had our trademark firmly in hand, we started first with a DMCA notice via the company that was hosting the fake Bikini Luxe company. Our second step was to reach out to the platform that they were selling on Shopify and present them with the trademark and trademark infringement evidence. Both Hostgator and Shopify were amazing, and within a week’s time they had suspended their website. The next steps we took were reaching out to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with our trademark information. This took a little bit longer. Both Facebook and Twitter responded and suspended their account within two weeks. Instagram took over a month.”
Galek advises any company to begin the trademarking process prior to opening their business, and to buy every potential domain that could be used to infringe on the brand.
This article was written by Alaina Brandenburger for Small Business Pulse