Leicester business locked in 'aggressive' legal battle with L'Oreal

Rebecca Dowdeswell, founder of waxing and beauty specialists, nkd, has spoken out about an ongoing legal battle with Loreal, concerning the name of her business.
-Credit: (Image: Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

A Leicester salon owner has been left locked in an "aggressive" legal battle with French cosmetics company L’Oreal over her company's name. Rebecca Dowdeswell, 48, owner of waxing business nkd, located in Silver Walk, said legal proceedings were the final nail in the coffin that forced her to close her Nottingham branch.

Rebecca has had the name trademarked since the business was founded in 2009; however, after 10 years the trademark runs out and companies have six months to reapply, otherwise they have to submit a new application. Rebecca said it was “on the list” of things to do but that it wasn’t “at the top”, something that was “naive” she said.

As the pandemic struck, Rebecca was forced to close her salons. She said the next two years were “so hard” on the beauty industry.

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She said: “I think it is widely recognised that it was particularly hard on the beauty industry [during the pandemic]. Restaurants and eateries got the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and they could do takeaways.

“Food and drink got some form of income. Whereas the beauty salons were closed for the longest out of any as we were close contact.

“We weren’t set up to do any form of online retailing. I really struggled during that time.”

When she came around to reapply for the trademark in 2022 she was left surprised that L’Oreal had objected to it. “L’Oreal owns Urban Decay, within this company are a range of eyeshadow palettes called Naked,” Rebecca said.

“Much to my surprise, L'Oreal objected to my application. We had already been trading for 12 years by then and I held the nkd trademark for 10 years. When you apply for a trademark you have to type in the name and L’Oreal’s Naked did not come up because it's a different word.

“They are pronounced and are spelt differently. Naked does eyeshadow palettes, we do waxing removals and after care products and they are very different. I do not think there is any confusion there.

“So I have now been locked in a very expensive legal battle for 24 months.” By this time, the business had been diversified to include the development of waxing aftercare products, Rachel said.

She said this was the “natural extension” of the business she had built. “A lot of people often said to us have you thought about making your own products,” she said.

nkd in Silver Walk, Leicester
nkd in Silver Walk, Leicester -Credit:Leicester Mercury

So instead of applying for a trademark for the name of the salon she also had to apply for the trademark to put on her products as well. L’Oreal objected to the use of nkd on Rebecca’s products as well as her salons.

“It said it would cause confusion and be detrimental to their Urban Decay branding,” she said. To try to come to a “co-existence” with L’Oreal, Rebecca said in her application that she would never extend the business into makeup or perfumes under the nkd name.

However, that didn’t help her cause. She said L'Oreal continue to object to her using the trademark. She said: “I feel that’s so heavy handed and aggressive, just on the back of some eye shadow pallets.

“I have spent a decade building this business up and equally it was too much to consider to renew a lease for 10 years. The stress and the cost became too much and ultimately I just ended up making the difficult decision.

“I have spent over £30,000, I have closed my Nottingham salon, which for me was very much linked to the L’Oreal thing. I just wasn’t prepared to rename the salon.”

But Rachel is now trying to remain optimistic about the Leicester salon. Launched in 2017, in its “fantastic” location in the city, she said: “We are very committed to that but it is a very tough time for the rest of the company.

“Having told the story in Nottingham we have had a lot of support. People know we do a very good job.

“The limited company is now registered in Leicester, it would be good to get the same level of support in Leicester. Because we used to be a real strong business and this has affected us massively.”

LeicestershireLive has approached L’Oreal for comment.

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