Despite all of the patents and trademarks out there, one might assume that, at the very least, one’s own family history would be safe. However, according to Georgette Mosbacher, the owner of Borghese Inc., that is not the case.
The Borghese family is a noble Italian family, which has included royalty, rulers, philosophers, and a pope. In the 1950s, Borghese Inc. was started by Princess Marcella Borghese and Revlon and has since been developed into a well-known cosmetics brand. In 1976, Revlon bought the rights, title, and interest to the Borghese cosmetics brand. According to the court papers, this included “the words BORGHESE, MARCELLA BORGHESE”, and “PRINCESS MARCELLA BORGHESE”.
In 1992, Revlon sold Borghese Inc. to Ms. Mosbacher, who then became its chief executive. She then reached an agreement with the family regarding final payments, although those have also been disputed.
Since then, Princess Marcella’s descendants have made their own mark on the beauty industry. Her son, Francesco, started his own line of beauty products in the early 1980s under names such as Orlane, Perlier, and Elariia. Beginning in the 1990s, the family (including Francesco, his wife, Amanda, and their son, Lorenzo) started making appearances on the home shopping channel QVC and, after that, HSN.
While none of the products are sold under the Borghese name, their marketing does include the noble lineage of the Borghese family. However, Borghese Inc. argues that that heritage is no longer theirs to capitalize on.
According to Mark N. Mutterperl, the attorney representing Borghese Inc., the lawsuit “is not different than if any other brand name with a surname like Lauder, McDonald, Heinz, Gallo, Ferragamo were to take steps as they do to stop others from using their intellectual property rights”.
Mark Evens, the attorney for the Borghese family, argues that Borghese Inc. “has suffered no harm. No dilution of their mark. No counterfeiting. No palming off.”
For decades, the Borghese family coexisted peacefully with Borghese Inc. It wasn’t until 2006, when Lorenzo entered into discussions with ABC to possibly appear on “The Bachelor” that things started to get heated. It was then that ABC mentioned Lorenzo’s grandmother as the woman who “started the famed self-named cosmetics line, Borghese Inc.” Although there is nothing factually incorrect about this assertion, Ms. Mosbacher nevertheless appeared to feel that her toes were being stepped on. She wrote to Mr. Borghese to warn him not to “cause any false impression in the marketplace that there is a connection or relationship between yourself and Borghese Inc. and our cosmetics products.”
In 2008, Lorenzo applied for a federal trademark for a line of pet shampoos and conditioners called “La Dolce Vita by Prince Lorenzo Borghese” for PetSmart. Borghese Inc. contested the trademark and, as the trademark approached approval in 2010, Borghese Inc. filed a lawsuit against the family.
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