Small American manufacturers overcome challenges today that are bigger than ever. With support and mandates from foreign governments, small American manufacturers now play on the most uneven field in our recent history.
Fair labor practices cost more than labor from countries with few or no labor laws. Intellectual property theft, price deflation subsidized by exporting nations, and monetary policy games all add to the menu of daily difficulties faced by small American manufacturers. Now we can add offensive trademark litigation from international giants to this to an ever-growing list of troubles.
The present pandemic has led to an overwhelming shortage of available PPE in the U.S. The urgency of this situation is still fresh today, as the Biden Administration announced a federal-level examination of the supply chain this week.
When the need was at a critical point last April, Jeremy and Pinqing Briggs rose to the occasion and launched a small startup north of Atlanta producing face masks for every day users and industrial buyers. When asked what motivated them to launch their business, Mr. Briggs commented, “we could not believe that in the US, we personally knew doctors that had to wear the same face mask for a week. We were pretty upset.”
Mr. and Mrs. Briggs were swift to source equipment, secure manufacturing space, and source domestic-made materials. He added, “finding a supplier that would even take our call when we asked for meltblown filter material was nearly impossible. It didn’t matter at all that they said no the first four times, then they finally said yes. It was an incredible moment.”
The world wide shortage of meltblown was just one of many unexpected challenges that they had to overcome at that time. By July last year they had hired more than 10 people and were manufacturing American made face masks. “I’m exhausted just thinking about those first months,” said Briggs.
After overcoming the impossible challenge of finding quality materials, transforming a warehouse space to an ISO-7 clean room, and lining up online sales channels, they filed for trademark protection for their brand Luosh USA.
At the end of December, Luosh USA received a notification from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the approved trademark was being opposed by a foreign company. Cosmetics Warriors, a UK based international cosmetics firm behind Lush cosmetics, hired the powerful law firm Merchant and Gould to stop the family startup from making and selling face masks in the United States under their unique brand.
Lush cosmetics does not make or sell PPE.
The Luosh name was an invented name based on Mrs. Briggs’ family name Luo. She indicated that the name was chosen as a matter of family pride. “We wanted my parents name to be connected to our company name,” she explained. My parents struggled to raise us in China during a difficult time. We often had little to eat. Using our family name in the brand name was something we did to make her feel proud.”
The LUOSH name mark was in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and quickly approved by the USPTO under an expedited program for COVID-related applications. Under US law, a trademark application becomes a trademark when officials determine mark is unlikely to confuse buyers about the company using the mark. Allowance of a trademark is followed by a 30-day opposition period that allows time for the public to show that the proposed mark harms an existing brand. On the last day of the opposition period, Cosmetics Warriors filed an opposition to the Luosh mark to keep it from issuing.
Cosmetics Warriors’ Notice of Opposition claims that the LUSH cosmetics brand would be harmed by consumer confusion because LUSH shares many of the same letters as LUOSH.
The European company Cosmetics Warriors also makes the incomprehensible claim that LUOSH USA face masks are “identical or closely related to” their cosmetics products. Under US trademark law, similar names that cause actual confusion are not permitted to issue as a mark.
To be successful in litigation, a trademark opposer mush provide evidence of actual confusion, or the judges must find for obvious confusion during the opposition proceeding.
Mr. Briggs of Luosh USA commented, “we cannot understand their motive for doing this. Our masks are obviously not lotion or soap. It is difficult to understand why they would try to stop us from using our own brand name. We’ve worked so hard for the name recognition already.” He added, “our products are far removed from anything Lush sells. We think they are trying to bury us with legal expenses until we are gasping for air and have no options. They know we’re small.”
This is not the first time Luosh has had to fight with international companies. “We fight against foreign bullies every day,” said Mr. Briggs. “They undercut our prices with masks that are subsidized by foreign governments. Imported masks are made with cheap materials and labor making it tough to compete.”
“Many people are willing to pay a bit more for masks made in USA.” He added, “we’ve had a difficult time fighting against cheap imports, and its also been tough to secure enough US-made materials to keep the lines producing.”
Mr. Briggs added, “we have been stubborn about only using American made materials in our masks. But it seems to resonate with people. Our masks are hypoallergenic, and our loyal customers with sensitive skin have come to depend on us. Many people are willing to pay a bit extra for masks made in USA.”
It is not clear what motivates an international cosmetics brand to attempt to force a small American manufacturer brand out of the market when they do not make or sell PPE. Foreign pressures on small US manufacturers are nothing new, and the reasons for applying those pressures seem endless.
Shaking his head, Briggs indicated that he had no idea that a foreign cosmetics and toiletries giant would try to stop them in this way. “It makes no sense to me,” he said. “Especially during a pandemic.”
But for the British company Cosmetics Warriors and Lush cosmetics, hiring a powerful law firm to interfere with this American made mask company seems to be a worthwhile task- even during a pandemic.
About Luosh USA
Luosh USA manufactures face masks in Marietta, GA from American made materials for one simple reason: People should have access to safe, effective, premium face masks from a source they trust and know, at a fair price. Visit Luosh USA to buy Face Masks Made in the USA.