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Lane Bryant has started a -- dare I say -- cat fight with Victoria's Secret with its new #ImNoAngel campaign. It's no secret that Lane Bryant is using the hashtag #ImNoAngel in an attempt to clip the wings of the Victoria's Secret Angels. The plus size brand claims that the #ImNoAngel campaign supports the idea that "Sexy is defined by EVERY woman, not SOME." The #ImNoAngel advertisements and social media campaign launched Monday, April 6, and seek to define "sexy" in unconventional ways.
Lane Bryant has even changed its profile and cover photos on Twitter to match the #ImNoAngel campaign. This cover photo somewhat mirrors the Victoria's Secret Angels Twitter cover photo, shown below.
The #ImNoAngel campaign adds to the conversation regarding fair representation of a differing body types in the media and in the fashion industry. It also ruffles a few feathers from the trademark perspective. Victoria's Secret owns various trademarks containing ANGEL for use on or in connection with clothing, including VICTORIA'S SECRET ANGELS, ANGELS BY VICTORIA'S SECRET, and DREAM ANGELS. Additionally, Victoria's Secret uses the hashtags @VSAngel and @trainlikeanangel.
Hashtag phrases are protectable and registerable as trademarks. Several companies including Gatorade, Lululemon, and Coca Cola have applied to register hashtags with the USPTO. A trademark is an identifier of the quality of the goods or services and the source of those goods or services identified by the mark, and hashtags serve the same purpose. It might come as a surprise that it is quite common for business to receive cease and desist letters over use of a hashtag that conflicts with another company's prior used trademark. Companies and individuals are generally advised to avoid using famous marks in hashtags to avoid allegations of trademark infringement. To date, Victoria's Secret has offered no response to Lane Bryant's campaign, and has taken no action in regard to the use of the ANGEL mark in the #ImNoAngel hashtag. It will be interesting to see whether Lane Bryant attempts to register #ImNoAngel with the USPTO and whether Victoria's Secret strikes back.
In case you haven't seen the Lane Bryant campaign that is so popular it might break the internet faster than Kim Kardashian, here's a link:
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