For Fall/Winter 2011, Cushnie et Ochs sent models down the runway in their latest iterations of bodycon dresses and sky-high Louboutins. Also at play: Some noteworthy nail designs, which caught the eyes of many show-goers and bloggers, alike. As Refinery 29 noted on the heels of the show, “We've seen plenty of darkly hued nails at Fashion Week so far, but at Cushnie et Och's show, Pattie Yankee took things to the next dimension—literally. Using seed beads sourced from the fall collection, she whipped up black, shimmering, decadent nail art that looked like it was just dipped in a vat of caviar.”
Shortly thereafter, London-based cosmetics company Ciaté began heavily marketing the Caviar Manicure, in which the surface of a nail is polished, and then covered with beads. It lends a texture and look that resembles caviar, not terribly unlike the look from the Cushnie et Ochs runway.
Ciaté took things a step further in March 2012 when it applied to register a trademark for “Caviar Manicure” and “Ciaté Caviar Manicure” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). And not only did Ciaté file applications for the marks, a month later, the company began threatening to sue others, namely bloggers, for using the “Caviar Manicure” phrase. According to at least one blogger, the individual behind PrettyDigits.com, who received a letter, the company's cease and desists read as follows:
"It has come to our attention that you are using the mark caviar manicure and/or caviar nails in relation to a manicure product/method of manicure. This relates to post on the 30th March ‘Caviar Nails Again’ as per link below:
Brand Agency Limited (Ciate) own the trademarks caviar manicure and caviar nails and we are in the process of applying to register these mark around the world. Therefore you should not use the trademarks caviar manicure and/or caviar nails unless they are used in relation to products or to a method of using products that are produced by Ciate.
Please confirm once you have removed references to our trade marks from your website."
The problem: “Caviar manicure” was not Ciaté’s trademark to claim. Cushnie et Ochs nail artist Pattie Yankee says she first came up with the carviar manicure technique and term in early 2011. "I did originate the name of Caviar nails," Yankee wrote in an email to BuzzFeed. "I named the nail look 'caviar manicure' backstage for the press," she continued.
Interestingly, while Ciaté was awarded a trademark registration for the “Ciaté Caviar Manicure” but not for “Caviar Manicure,” itself, as the USPTO said the latter mark was merely descriptive of the type of manicure at issue, and therefore, not subject to trademark protection. Considering that none of the bloggers or other publications in question were using Ciaté's name in connection with their use of the "caviar manicure" term, the company's rights appear to be devoid of any real claws.