Woman behind satirical web journal and Twitter feed hits back at actress’s bid to turn her into a licensee
A company founded by actress Jessica Alba has been slammed online following an alleged attempt to hijack a satirical blogger’s trademark filing. The Honest Toddler – a popular web journal that pokes gentle fun at child-rearing issues by imagining them from a toddler’s perspective – has garnered a huge following since it launched in May 2012, with writer and mother Bunmi Laditan penning every entry and running a complementary Twitter feed. However, in a recent entry on her own, personal blog, Laditan has accused Alba’s eco-friendly cleaning products and lifestyle firm The Honest Company of trying to muscle in on her pending mark.
Explaining her position in a Timeline of Events, Laditan noted that Alba’s outfit bought the domain name ‘honesttoddler.com’ in March 2012 – a purchase of which Laditan herself was unaware – but would only begin to use it as a live website once the subsequent brand dispute flared up. Two months on from that registration, Laditan started tweeting as The Honest Toddler and soon began to support the feed via the WordPress blog ‘thehonesttoddler.com’.
In September 2012, The Honest Company interviewed Laditan for its own blog – a move that would later strike Laditan as strange for an organisation seeking to avoid confusion. That same month, publisher Simon & Schuster offered Laditan a book deal based upon her output, which compelled her to file a trademark application for ‘Honest Toddler’ with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In a decision of April this year, the USPTO declared that the filing was unlikely to be confused with any other current marks. It then granted preliminary approval and published the filing.
On 20 April, though, the dispute erupted: The Honest Company contacted Laditan and offered her a limited license of 365 days for use of the mark, on the condition that she withdrew her filing. After that term expired, Laditan would be obliged to cease using the phrase ‘Honest Toddler’ in any medium to which she had applied it. The following month, The Honest Company raised the stakes – threatening to block the mark unless Laditan swiftly consented to the limited-licence offer. In short order, it filed a Notice of Opposition with the USPTO to challenge Laditan’s filing.
As media interest in the blog and Twitter feed continued to grow, the legal wrangling intensified. In June, famous Sex & The City producer Darren Star optioned TV rights to Honest Toddler. But a few weeks later, Alba’s attorneys wrote to Star, misinforming him that his proposed use of ‘Honest Toddler’ would constitute brand infringement against The Honest Company – an approach that Laditan dubbed ‘legally and factually false’. Then, on 28 July, The Honest Company finally launched a website under the domain name it had purchased back in March 2012.
In addition to the timeline, Laditan provided details of other ‘Honest’ bloggers with whom she enjoys cordial relationships, such as Honest Mom and Honest Family. She also cited juice-drinks range Honest Kids as a brand that has not shown any inclination to oppose her filing. And Laditan is no longer waging her online fightback alone: a petition on the campaigning web platform Change.org – titled Reject the Opposition of the Honest Toddler Trademark (USPTO 85740533) – has so far attracted more than 7,500 signatures, many of which have come from the blog’s fans.
In an announcement, The Honest Company explained its legal tactics by saying: ‘We are simply seeking assurance that The Honest Toddler will not sell products in the future that could be confused with our own eco-friendly products for families.’ To which Laditan quickly replied: ‘If this is true, why can’t we just sign a Do Not Compete agreement?’