Following months of a rumored feud between a big-name influencer and an in-demand makeup company, and a growing rivalry between two buzzy beauty brands, a legal battle is underway. Morphe, a beauty brand that first made its name with high-quality but affordable makeup brushes, is taking on Becca Cosmetics, alleging that its rival has threatened it with a lawsuit over a new collection that Morphe released this month with heavily-followed celebrity makeup artist-slash-social media star Jaclyn Hill.
According to a new lawsuit, which Morphe filed in a California federal court earlier this month, Morphe says that it received a strongly-worded cease and desist letter late last month from Becca Cosmetics. In its letter, Becca took issue with the packaging for Morphe’s new Vault eyeshadow palette, a collab with Hill, and accused Morphe of copying the packaging from a collection that Becca had produced two years prior “as part of its own collaboration with Jaclyn Hill.”
Morphe alleges that trouble started back in July 2015 when Hill and then-little-known beauty brand Becca released a limited-edition highlighter product Champagne Pop. After the collab proved to be a hit and all 25,000 units sold out within the first 20 minutes of hitting Sephora’s e-commerce site, Hill and Becca tried their hand at a more expansive collection for holiday 2016.
While that collection only ever hit shelves in very limited quantities, due to an array of quality-related issues, Hill – who currently boasts 5.6 million followers on Instagram and whose YouTube videos regularly garner millions of views – swiftly landed another gig, a partnership with Los Angeles-based Morphe. Together, Hill and Morphe “collaborated on a number of cosmetic products” before they launched the “Morphe x Jaclyn Hill co-brand” in 2017.
Fast forward to July 2018, and Morphe and Hill were preparing for the launch of their latest endeavor, an eyeshadow palette called, Vault. According to Morphe’s lawsuit, “More than six weeks after the [new Morphe x Jaclyn Hill] eyeshadow palettes and their packaging were revealed, and less than three weeks before the long-anticipated product launch,” Becca sent Morphe a cease-and-desist letter, “claiming for the first time to have common law trade dress rights in the design of the product packaging for its ‘Champagne Pop’ palette.”
The packaging design at issue consists of "a white outer box with Ms. Hill’s signature in the center of the package as part of the 'Morphe x Jaclyn Hill' logo against a silver background that explodes from the center into confetti-like particles flecked with colored accent shapes that correspond to the 40 eyeshadow shades within the collection."
In addition to asserting trade dress rights in the packaging, Becca alleged that Morphe and Hill’s Vault packaging infringes those rights and “constitutes ‘false designation of origin, palming off and trade dress infringement as well as tortious interference with [an existing] agreement” that Hill maintains with Becca.
But Morphe is not backing down, and instead, is alleging that Becca does not actually maintain any rights in its Champagne Pop packaging. Morphe claims that while “Becca claimed to have developed its purported trade dress rights through ‘extensive use’ such that consumers associate that packaging and the products on which it is used exclusively with Becca,” in reality, “Becca only offered the product bearing the allegedly protected trade dress design through two limited production runs in 2016.”
As a result, Morphe argues that Becca has not met the level of use required to claim trade dress rights, and even if it has, “the Vault eyeshadow palettes’ packaging design and the Champagne Pop packaging design clearly differ” so much so that no consumer would be confused as to the sources of the products. With that in mind, Morphe says that Becca has no real claim for trade dress infringement.
And still yet, Morphe claims that Becca was not even the first to use the design at hand, pointing to similar packaging that has been used by Chanel, Jouer, BareMinerals, and Yves Saint Laurent, among other brands.
According to Morphe, “Becca’s threats of litigation have put [it] under a cloud of uncertainty regarding its rights in and ability to sell its Vault palettes,” and as a result, it has asked the court to declare, among other things, that “Becca does not own any trade dress rights in the design of the Champagne Pop palette, much less trade dress rights with priority over those of Morphe, and that if any rights do exist, Morphe has not infringed those rights.”
The lawsuit comes after months of reports that Hill and the $200 million Becca brand had a falling out following the failure of their holiday collaboration. However, Becca CEO Robert DeBaker told Racked last year that the brand “had a phenomenal partnership” with Hill and that any reports to the contrary are “classic fake news.”
As for the Jaclyn Hill x Morphe Vault collection, it hit the web last week and is now sold out.
* The case is Morphe, LLC, v. Becca, Inc., 2:18-cv-06667 (C.D. Cal.).