Rhode, an eight-year-old fashion label worn by Beyoncé, Tracee Ellis-Ross and Lupita Nyong’o, sued Hailey Bieber for trademark infringement Tuesday, days after she launched a skincare brand of the same name.
Though the two brands technically operate in separate markets for now, the trademark infringement lawsuit argues that Bieber’s “immense celebrity status and massive fan following” will allow rhode—the skincare line styles its name with a lowercase “r,” while the fashion label uses an uppercase “R”—to “quickly swamp Rhode’s market presence, confuse the marketplace, and ultimately destroy the goodwill and reputation of the RHODE brand.”
“If Defendants are permitted to continue their infringement, the risk to Rhode is existential: the brand may very well be erased,” it wrote.
Bieber, whose middle name is Rhode, commands an Instagram following of 45.4 million. An even larger number, 243 million, follow her husband, Justin Bieber. The Grammy-winning singer posted about his wife’s business at least twice last week. The new skincare line reached a broader audience on its June 15 launch day thanks to Hailey Bieber’s appearances on the TV shows “Good Morning America” and “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Rhode also noted.
“Today, we were forced to file a lawsuit against Hailey Bieber and her new skin-care line that launched last week and that is using the brand “rhode,” Rhode wrote on Instagram Tuesday. “We didn’t want to file this lawsuit, but we had to in order to protect our business.”
Rhode’s apparel has been worn by a range of celebrities and fashion influencers, the lawsuit noted, including Mindy Kaling, Tracee Ellis-Ross, Busy Phillips and Maya Rudolph. In the United States, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue all carry its products, while in the United Kingdom, Harrods and Brown Thomas are scheduled to host popups. According to Rhode, Bloomingdales has devoted “a section” of its New York City flagship to the brand. It expects to pull in sales of approximately $14.5 million this year.
“We admire Hailey,” Rhode’s statement continued. “She has worked hard and earned the ability to create her own skin-care line. We don’t want to sue Hailey; we want to celebrate her. As fellow women entrepreneurs, we wish her every success.
“Hailey could choose any brand for her skin-care line. We have only the brand name “RHODE” that we’ve built. That’s why we didn’t sell her our brand when she asked four years ago, and why we ask her now to change her skin-care line’s brand. Her using our brand is hurting our company, our employees, our customers, and our partners.
The fashion label’s complaint focused much of its attention on Instagram, where Rhode claimed it fought and failed to receive control of the @rhode Instagram handle. It said it also asked the social media platform to verify its own account, @shoprhode, but, “upon information and belief, Instagram has been unwilling to [do so] because of competition with Ms. Bieber.”
Though @rhode “had no posts until June 8,” according to Rhode, Bieber tagged the account and posted about its pending launch at least as far back as April. A day before rhode’s launch, Rhode said, the handle had amassed 247,000 followers. By Tuesday, that number had grown to 422,000. The fashion brand Rhode, by comparison, has 194,000 Instagram followers. The complaint includes screenshots from seven posts where an Instagram user confused the two accounts and incorrectly tagged @rhode where they meant @shoprhode.
“Interested consumers will likely click on the @rhode tag in these social media posts and be steered to Defendants’ Instagram page, instead of being steered to Rhode’s @shoprhode page,” the complaint argued. “Once redirected to Defendants’ page, Rhode will lose the opportunity to convert a consumer’s interest in its Rhode-branded products into sale of that or another Rhode product, thus causing Rhode financial and irreparable harm to its brand and associated goodwill and reputation.”
Rhode further contended that rhode “exacerbated the confusion,” including by hosting a June 15 Instagram Live event titled “shop rhode with hailey,” a phrase that emulates its own @shoprhode handle. It also cited rhode’s use of the hashtag #OnTheRHODE. Rhode said it has used that exact phrase since its founding in 2014 “as means to connect with its followers and fan base.”
The complaint also cited examples of confusion beyond social media, including from a store partner who believed Rhode was coming out with a skincare line and Bieber was its spokesperson. “Nobody mentioned it to me in the showroom and it’s all over social media, I wish someone would’ve let me know,” the store owner reportedly wrote.
Though rhode is ostensibly focused solely on skincare, Rhode’s lawsuit noted that Bieber herself, responding to a June 17 TikTok post, wrote “Clothes will come.” The complaint also pointed to social media posts that have included images of a shirt, sweatshirt and robe, all emblazoned with the word “rhode.”
Though Bieber has been trying to launch a skincare line for years—her company Rhodedeodato Corp. unsuccessfully filed to trademark “Bieber Beauty” in April 2019—her attempts to found a clothing brand date back even further. In fact, when she first tried to trademark “RHODE” on Nov. 16, 2018, she simply listed “clothing” as its goods and services.
Rhode’s lawsuit claims that counsel for Bieber contacted the brand that same day to offer to buy its trademark registration. The fashion label declined. When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Bieber’s application in January 2019, it cited a “likelihood of confusion” with Rhode’s own trademark, which it received in September 2017.
Despite this, HRBeauty LLC, the company Rhode claims is behind rhode, filed to trademark “RHODE” last month. The application’s massive list of proposed goods and services included “clothing; footwear; headgear.” A trademark application for “Rhode Glaze” originated in July 2021 and also included “clothing; footwear; headgear” under goods and services.
Neither HRBeauty nor Rhodedeodato have successfully trademarked any form of the rhode name. The latter is further along than the former, with three of its trademarks published for opposition. Two of these propose to trademark “RHODE” for beauty and wellness products. The other would trademark “Hailey Rhode” and encompass clothing. Last month, Rhodedeodato filed to trademark “Moodboard.” The mark would exclusively cover clothing and footwear.