From Kimono, through #KimOhNo, to Skims: A branding nightmare for Kim Kardashian

#KimOhNo became a symbol of the backlash to Kim Kardashian’s attempt to register a trademark for her new line of shape wear, Kimono.

By

Igor Demcak

There are always at least two sides to a story, so let’s explore both of them. Kim Kardashian West had been, according to her own words, “passionate about creating Kimono brand for 15 years” [1] and she finally launched this new line of shape wear in 2019. When confronted, Kim Kardashian West explained the choice of the brand name with reference to an obvious play on words with her first name [2]. Moreover, as specified in the trademark registration application, the distinctiveness of the mark was derived primarily from its graphical representation, or the specific use of a bubble font that was designed by Kanye West [2].

An opposing perspective on the new brand launched by Kim Kardashian West was however taken by the general public, in Japan in particular. This attempt was viewed as cultural appropriation of a traditional Japanese robe-like garment, the history of which can be traced back to year 700 [3]. #KimOhNo has become trending hashtag, with the general public discouraging Kim Kardashian West from going forward with her plan [1]. Japanese officials went even further and dispatched trademark officials to the US to argue their case [4].

The end result was a public relations nightmare for Kim Kardashian West that eventually led to her abandoning the trademark registration attempt for Kimono [5]. Instead, the new line of shape wear was rebranded to Skims.

What are the main lessons that can be learnt from this case study? It’s really never too early to start thinking about protecting the uniqueness of your brand. The very choice of the brand name should be influenced by the criteria that allow you successfully register the trademark. Otherwise, just like Kim Kardashian West, you may incur substantial rebranding costs alongside negative publicity or even trademark infringement cases. Team Drama is here to help you all the way so please do not hesitate to contact us with any trademark registration or brand protection related question.

[1] Trepany, C. (2019), “Kim Kardashian’s plan to trademark Kimono angers Twitter: #KimOhNo”, USA Today, available from: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2019/06/26/kim-kardashian-kimono-trademark-draws-claims-cultural-appropriation/1556683001/

[2] Marine, B. (2019), “The Kim Kardashian Kimono trademark controversy, explained”, W Magazine, available from: https://www.wmagazine.com/story/kim-kardashian-kimono-trademark-controversy-explained/

[3 ]Friedman, V. (2019), “Kim Kardashian West and the Kimono controversy”, The New York Times, available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/fashion/kim-kardashian-west-kimono-cultural-appropriation.html

[4] Woodyatt, A., Mezzofiore, G. and Kolirin, L. (2019), “Japan to send trademark officials to US over Kim Kardashian West kimono row”, CNN, available from: https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/kim-kardashian-rename-kimono-intl-scli/index.html

[5] The Fashion Law (2019), “No, Kim Kardashian does not own the word Kimono”, available from: https://www.thefashionlaw.com/no-kim-kardashian-does-not-own-the-word-kimono/

Igor Demcak

Igor Demcak

Trademark Attorney

Filed over 150 trademarks as a trademark attorney

UPJS Kosice

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