Cultural Appropriation and a Kardashian (Again)What’s the big deal about Kim K.’s “Kimono” trademark

Updated as of July 1, 2019: It appears that Kim finally decided that the backlash from Twitter and a letter from the mayor of a Japanese city were enough to change her tune on her latest vulture move. In a tweet this morning, Kim said that she would be changing the name of her new brand and would update all of us soon with the new name.


Can’t wait. Let’s hope that she hires a branding expert for this next name.




Kim Kardashian filed yet more federal trademark registration applications, this time for her shapewear line, “Kimono.”* And with all things Kardashian, the controversy and the backlash came faster than the next Fast and Furious sequel.


The one thing that I have to give Kim credit for is that she knows the importance of trademark registration. In a statement released to The New York Times, Kim states that the trademark is a “source identifier that will allow [her] to use the word for [her] shapewear and intimates line but does not preclude or restrict anyone . . . from making kimonos or using the word kimono in reference to the traditional garment.”


While Kim is protecting her intellectual property and making sure that consumers are not going to confuse her Kimono shapeware line with other companies, the backlash behind her KIMONO trademark applications proves that she needs to choose more thoughtfully (and stop being so tone-deaf).


Walt Disney saw this first hand from its registration of HAKUNA MATATA, a Swahili phrase. Urban Outfitters was sued for illegal use of the Navajo Nation’s name for a collection of goods. The Nation owns almost 100 registered trademarks. Plus, the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act makes it illegal to sell arts or crafts that falsely suggest that they were made by Native Americans. As a result of the lawsuit, the Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters came to an agreement to work together and market authentic Navajo goods.


Just because you can register a trademark and enforce your rights, it does not mean that you should ignore potential controversies. At some point, the Kardashian family has to tire of being the appropriation vultures of all cultures. A little more strategy and sensitivity should have been used for this venture. With social media becoming the new judge and jury, companies accused of misappropriating culture have suffered significant reputational damage. If a privileged person or company profits or is recognized for something it did not create, it better be ready for the criticism.


And if you want to see the court of public opinion in session, you need look no further than the jurisdiction of Twitter. Japanese women have been coming for Kim’s edges left and right.


“I’m from Japan. For us, Kimono represents the beauty and elegance of the country’s tradition… your spandex underwear brand has nothing to do with it. I’m offended.”


“… I find the naming of your products baffling (since it has no resemblance to kimono), if not outright culturally offensive, especially if it’s merely a word play on your name. Pls reconsider.”


“… It’s just not cool to trademark and profit from something that you and your product don’t have any actual connection to (while negatively affecting, say, actual Japanese kimono makers’ ability to use the term).


“Seriously why would you trademark the word ‘kimono’ like its (sic) suddenly yours.”


Boom. Kim might want to look into starting an edge control line, because she is going to need it if she keeps this up.


*The offending apps, as written:

· KIMONO (design mark, reportedly designed by Kanye), applied for in connection with luggage, bags, namely all-purpose carrying bags, travel bags, shoulder bags, leather bags; wallets, carriers, whips, harnesses, cosmetic bags sold empty; purses. Lingerie, shapeware, baby doll pajamas, stockings, breast shapers, petals in the nature of nipple cover pasties, nipple cover pasties, bra inserts, bras, bralette, slips being underclothing, teddies being underclothing, romper, bodysuits, corsets being underclothing, bustiers, camisoles, chemisoles, chemises, negligee, bikinis, brassiere, girdle, nightgown, nightie, leotard, socks, tee shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, swimwear, swimwear accessories; headwear, shoes namely sandals; leather and imitation leather belts. Retail store services featuring clothing, lingerie and accessories.

· KIMONO BODY, applied for in connection with luggage, bags, namely, all-purpose carrying bags, travel bags, shoulder bags, leather bags, wallets, carriers, whips, harnesses, cosmetic bags sold empty; purses. Lingerie, shapewear, baby doll pajamas, stockings, breast shapers, petals in the nature of nipple cover pasties, nipple cover pasties, bra inserts, bras, bralette, slips being underclothing, teddies being underclothing, romper, bodysuits, corsets being underclothing, bustiers, camisoles, chemisoles, chemises, negligee, bikinis, brassiere, girdle, nightgown, nightie, leotard, socks, tee shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, swimwear, swimwear accessories; headwear, shoes, namely, sandals; leather and imitation leather belts. Retail store services featuring clothing, lingerie and accessories.

· KIMONO SOLUTIONWEAR, applied for in connection with leather and imitation leather belts, luggage, bags, wallets, whips, harness, cosmetic bags, purses. Lingerie, shapewear, baby doll, stockings, breast shapers, petals, pasties, bra inserts, bras, bralette, slips, teddy, romper, bodysuits, corsets, bustiers, camisoles, chemisoles, chemises, negligee, bikinis, brassiere, girdle, nightgown, nightie, leotard, socks, tees, t-shirts, sweatshirts, swimwear, swimwear accessories, headgear, shoes, namely, sandals. Retail store services.

· KIMONO WORLD, applied for in connection with leather and imitation leather belts, luggage, bags, wallets, whips, harness, cosmetic bags, purses. Lingerie, shapewear, baby doll, stockings, breast shapers, petals, pasties, bra inserts, bras, bralette, slips, teddy, romper, bodysuits, corsets, bustiers, camisoles, chemisoles, chemises, negligee, bikinis, brassiere, girdle, nightgown, nightie, leotard, socks, tees, t-shirts, sweatshirts, swimwear, swimwear accessories, headgear, shoes, namely sandals. Retail store services.

· KIMONO INTIMATES, applied for in connection with lingerie, namely, underwear, panties, hosiery, garters and garter belts, shapewear, baby doll pajamas, stockings, breast shapers, namely, adhesive bras, petals in the nature of breast covers or pasties, pasties, bra inserts, bras, bralettes, slips being underclothing, teddies being underclothing, rompers, bodysuits, corsets being clothing, bustiers, camisoles, chemises, bikinis, brassieres, girdles, leotards, socks. As of November 2018, this application was suspended by the USPTO because it has been refused for a likelihood of confusion because it resembles two other registered trademarks.

· KIMONO INTIMATES, applied for in connection with perfume, deodorant for personal use, body spray, essential body oil, body lotion. Leather and imitation leather shoulder belts, luggage, bags, namely, shoulder bags, handbags, tote bags, overnight bags, duffle bags, and leather bags, wallets, carriers for animals, whips, harnesses for animals, cosmetic bags sold empty, purses. Retail store services featuring perfume, deodorant for personal use, body spray, essential body oil, body lotion, leather and imitation leather shoulder belts, luggage, bags, namely shoulder bags, handbags, tote bags, overnight bags, duffle bags and leather bags, wallets, carriers for animals, whips, harnesses for animals, cosmetic bags sold empty, purses, lingerie, namely, underwear, panties, hosiery, garters and garter belts, shapewear, baby doll pajamas, sotckings, breast shapers, namely adhesive bras, petals in the nature of breast covers or pasties, pasties, bra inserts, bras, bralettes, slips being underclothing, teddies being underclothing, rompers, bodysuits, corsets being clothing, bustiers, camisoles, chemises, bikinis, brassieres, girdles, leotards and socks. As of November 2018, this application was suspended by the USPTO because it has been refused for a likelihood of confusion because it resembles two other registered trademarks.

· Three KIMONO applications filed in April 2018 - As of November 2018, these applications were suspended by the USPTO because they had been refused for a likelihood of confusion for resembling other registered trademarks


Nicole

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About Nicole

Nicole Gaither, is a New Orleans girl, a hip-hop aficionado, who makes your business her business. I am a Louisiana-barred attorney and Georgia Certified Public Accountant she started Creativa IP Law with hopes to encourage her clients to think about where they want their business to go so that she can work with them to develop legal strategies that support their long-term goals.

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