Butt Battle: Bawdy Beauty Alleges Yes To Copied Its Sheet Mask For The Backside
Bawdy Beauty, the brand behind colorful butt sheet masks sold at Ulta Beauty, Credo, Free People and Urban Outfitters, is accusing mass market skincare staple specialist Yes To of copying its signature derrière care.
On Monday, Yes To revealed in a post on its Instagram account that it would be selling the product Booty-Ful Mask exclusively at Target starting Sunday. Within hours, commenters began pointing out the similarities between the green Booty-Ful Mask with the word “Kiss” emblazoned on it in white and Bawdy Beauty’s four butt cheek sheet masks that come in the bold colors green, pink, blue and yellow with their evocative names—Bite It, Shake It, Slap It and Squeeze It—printed on them in white. Anonymous beauty collective Estée Laundry shared side-by-side shots of the two brands’ butt masks on Instagram Stories to highlight their resemblance. While Yes To’s post is still up on the company’s profile, all comments calling out Yes To for copying Bawdy’s design have been removed.
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“Yes To supposedly supports women. It is part of their marketing pitch on their About Us page, but do they really act that way?” asks Bawdy founder Sylwia Wiesenberg. “I am a woman founder, the engine behind a small independent, but super creative brand. Everyone involved in the process of translating my vision, creating the artwork, etc., that represents Bawdy is equally upset and sickened by disgusting behavior that contradicts [the] Yes To philosophy of supporting women.”
Contacted by Beauty Independent to respond to the copying accusation, a Yes To spokesperson said, “As the leader in masks in the U.S. since 2016, Yes To specializes in creating natural, fun, efficacious and affordable beauty solutions from head to toe. Since masks are our specialty, Yes To has been exploring and developing masks for all body parts, including belly and booty. This is an integral part of our brand mission to promote body positivity and self-love, self-care. We see growth of body masks overall as an expression of this and encourage more companies to join us in supporting body love and care at an affordable price and accessible at a full array of retailers across the country.”
The spokesperson continued, “Yes To is a company managed by an array of incredibly talented females, including CEO, CMO, Senior VP Finance, Associate Director of Retail Marketing, Associate Director of Communications, [the] entire marketing department and more. There are 34 women out of the 43 employees of Yes To.”
The beauty industry has seen a raft of copying recently. Huda Beauty was reproached for allegedly replicating Beauty Bakerie in its Huda Easy Bake line. Natasha Denona and Tarte are duking it out in court over the rights to use “BRUSH & GLOW” and “BRONZE & GLOW.” Several brands have released packaging mimicking Glossier’s and Herbivore’s designs.
To help stave off imitators, Laura-Michelle Horgan, an attorney at Barton LLP, advises beauty brands to shore up their intellectual property. She says, “Indie brands can try to obtain utility patents to protect novel, functional inventions like Bawdy’s mask. They can also try to obtain design patents to protect the ornamental features of their products like the design of Bawdy’s masks and packaging. Obtaining patents will mean the brands will have statutory rights to their intellectual property that will make it easier for them to bring claims in court.”
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A cursory U.S. Trademark and Patent Office search of patent filings doesn’t turn up a Bawdy patent. The brand has registered to trademark the name Bawdy for various beauty products. If Bawdy lacks a butt mask trademark and patent, that doesn’t mean its mask is fair game for competitors intent on emulating it. When a brand’s product becomes equated with it, the brand may have trade dress rights shielding the product from copying. Horgan explains, “The amount of advertising, promotion and social media generated by the brand are important factors in establishing a brand’s ‘trade dress’ rights.”
For many entrepreneurial brands like Bawdy with limited budgets and bandwidth, legally combatting bigger beauty industry players over intellectual property issues is too onerous and costly. “We are still considering our legal options, but know that such a path takes a lot of time and energy, let alone money, that could be spent building our brand and continuing to create,” says Wiesenberg. “While there may be satisfaction in that route, it may be better to beat them in the market and social media as we know we have a superior product, are truly the innovators in butt beauty, and educated consumers will see that.”
In the two days since Yes To’s Instagram announcement, Wiesenberg has invested in ads on the social media platform to raise Bawdy’s brand awareness. Its website touts that it is the “original” producer of the butt mask. Wiesenberg adds that she’d like to see intellectual property laws strengthened to enable emerging brands to more easily defend their inventions from theft.
“This would change the cold calculus that larger brands use when deciding to steal ideas from small independent brands that they think do not have the resources to fight back,” she says. “Not only do I want to protect my brand, but the hundreds of amazing indie brands that daily face the same challenges and BS from large competitors who lack creativity.”