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Barbie® x Hello Apparel?

Yesterday marks another anniversary of Hello Apparel; a graphic clothing brand my wife, Anita and I started on a whim 5 years ago. Our daughter, Lola, inspired us to make some cute, affordable clothing for the entire family to wear.. She even designed one of the first shirts! But never in our wildest dreams did we think it would turn into what it is today. 

Lola's first t-shirt design in 2012

Lola's first t-shirt design in 2012

During the last half-decade, our literal “mom and pop” operation has grown into a small business and we're fortunate enough to have sold over a quarter million t-shirts online and have been in 200+ brick and mortar boutiques around the world. We’ve also used this exposure as a platform to raise funds for charitable organizations we support, to help humans and animals in need.  

But as any creative person selling goods knows, all forms of artistic exposure often come with frustration. The core identity of our brand is a simple one. Some might even (most definitely) call it generic. Our logo is nothing more than a font that says “hello,” arguably one of the most written words in human history.. I know, terrible planning. The obvious resulting consequence of this has been a wide-spread amount of “copy cat” reports from awesome fans over the years, which are more or less shrugged off.. We get it. It comes with the territory. In many cases, the other producing parties probably don’t even know we exist, so coincidences are bound to pop up from time to time.. That’s what we get for having such simplistic branding. 

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But this week we came across something totally crazy.. My wife was walking down the toy aisle in Target and literally shrieked in shock at the site of our beloved 58 year old national treasure, Barbie®, wearing a pink Hello Apparel™ t-shirt. This, my friends, is absolutely not a coincidence and the trademark logos between the two of us mean A LOT. 

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According to the International Trademark Association

“The symbol ® is a notice of registered ownership used in many countries or regions to advise the public that a trademark or service mark is registered and to provide constructive notice of the legal ownership status of the mark with which it is used..”

And..

“The symbol ™ is used to provide notice of a claim of common-law rights in a trademark.“

I shot a quick note to our budget legal council and as it turns out, common law trademarks don’t really hold up against corporate giants. We have tried to get one of those fancy little R’s numerous times over the years, to no avail. With that alone, we would most certainly be protected from anyone using “our logo” as flair for their toys, but it seems there’s not much we can do without it.

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In some ways, it’s pretty cool that some fresh-out-of-design-school-kid got lazy and slapped our logo on a miniature plastic t-shirt.. That’s the way I’m imagining it, at least. It’s not like Mattel held a secret meeting to discuss which hip boutique brands to knock off for their 2017 winter line.. or maybe they did? Because unfortunately, this happens far too often. Just Google “Designer gets ripped off by corporation” some time and read about all the amazing artists out there getting it from the man. I just wish the companies clearing this stuff would be a little more responsible for what they put out in the world. In all honesty, I’ve made my fair share of accidental design yanks in the past and have always owned up to it and done everything in my power to resolve the mistake. I don’t believe this resolution happens too often on the corporate side and people like us simply don’t have the power to fight it.

I’m not usually a vocal person about stuff like this, but I’d like ask everyone out there to keep supporting the little guy. Help spread the word for the brands you love. It really does go a long way. A lot of people at Hello and countless other small businesses out there have put in some serious hard work to get where they are.. 

I guess I’m just feeling nostalgic, proud and hopeful that good old fashioned love for what you do won’t go unnoticed.