- Adrian Elguet
- BBC news
A small business owner who has a name rights dispute with a French social media app of the same name has hit back at its “menacing” behavior.
Batool Zaidi applied to register the name of her womenswear company, BeReal, in the UK in November 2020 – a year before the French namesake applied in the UK.
Lawyers from the social media app ordered it to stop using the BeReal name under threat of “urgent legal action.”
The two BeReals are set to fight in court at the end of the month.
The French company said it was “trying to find an amicable solution for all parties”.
Ms Zaidi’s company, based in Old Street, east London, does not use models; its ethos is for women to assume their true form. Her company, which employs just two people, runs pop-ups and works with major global retailers.
In Paris, the social media app BeReal is a much bigger business, with a claimed 20 million users,
Gaining popularity among teens and young adults during the pandemic, the app has made efforts to establish itself globally. Users of the application that was registered in France in June 2021 cannot use filters. The idea is for them to “show their friends who they really are.”
In addition to filing a trademark in the software and internet domains category, Paris-based BeReal has also applied for the apparel category. When the company applied to register the trademark in the UK, Ms Zaidi filed an objection in June 2022.
A few months later, she received a cease-and-desist letter from a French lawyer.
Her brand has been found to be infringing on its trademark by shipping to Europe – a claim it denies as it claims to only ship to customers in the UK and US.
It was claimed that her brand was “derived” from a social media app, which meant “unfair misappropriation” of the brand on social media.
Ms Zaidi’s company was ordered to cease production, promotion and marketing using the BeReal name or face “urgent legal proceedings”.
She said: “I opened this little online store in lockdown to empower women’s fashion, and they just went out of their way to humiliate and scare me.
“I will not back down because I believe it’s important to stand up to soulless companies bent on world domination, happily stomping on anything that gets in their way.”
Ms Zaidi added: “I was shocked to receive the letter. We do not ship to the EU; the only case of shipping to the EU was one order from Paris that asked for it to be shipped there, which I did not.
“My women’s clothing has no impact on their brand and we are not their competition. I don’t know why they tried to register in the clothing category in the UK as well.”
The social media app told the BBC it had common law rights to the trademark in the UK.
The UK recognizes common law for brands that have not been registered as trademarks but which have become de facto trademarks as a result of their widespread use and recognition, the BBC’s intellectual property lawyer explained.
This means that if the social media brand BeReal could demonstrate that, as a result of its extensive use in the UK, it was recognized as a brand by the public – in particular for clothing and before Ms Zaidi applied in November 2020 – it could be able to cancel her registration and prevent her from using the BeReal name.
A spokesperson for the social app said: “As both parties are independent companies, we deeply appreciate the work that has gone into their development. Therefore, we first tried to find an amicable solution for all parties.
“After numerous attempts to contact BeReal Wear Limited, all attempts have gone unanswered and therefore we have been unable to enter into any discussions to resolve the issue.
“Our priority is to protect our users. We respect BeReal Wear Limited and do not want to disturb anyone in running an ethical business.
“Given the real consumer confusion resulting from the logos being sold, we also need to protect the brand we have built. Ultimately, we want both of our companies to follow fair practices that distinguish our company identity.
“We are pleased to leave the door open should BeReal Wear Limited decide to respond to our attempts at a solution.”
Ms Batool’s company opposes the social app only in the apparel category. The application has applied for a trademark in various categories and will be able to proceed with the registration in unfiled objections after the completion of the proceedings, informed the Intellectual Property Office.