So, I got cable last Thursday for the first time in five years. That means I spent most of the weekend engrossed in programs as varied as Teen Mom and The Jersey Shore. While mostly glued to the incredible train wreck that is MTV, I did peruse the channels to see what I've been missing on Hulu. The first thing that caught my eye was an infomercial for the InStyler, a hair straightener that looks like a curling iron. Its rotating baton is meant to polish your hair while straightening it, leaving it shiny but not fried-looking. It retails for about $150. While the actual contraption--which yes, I know has been around for about a year already--was fascinating, I was more interested in the name InStyler, mostly because the logo looked almost exactly like that of InStyle magazine's. I wondered if the straightener was somehow connected with InStyle. It makes sense--InStyle does quite a bit of beauty coverage, and competitors like Elle have put their name on everything from hair accessories to clothing to eye wear. But after further research, I can't seem to find any connection between the two brands.
It's obvious why, from a marketing point of view, InStyler would choose such a name. The magazine's readers associate it with glamor, Hollywood and looking good, so they might then associate the straightener with the same. But really, isn't that illegal? I consulted my lawyer friends at our sister blog Above the Law to make sure that I wasn't full of it. One said that, while he isn't an intellectual property lawyer, his quick take is that it's certainly possible that InStyle could sue InStyler for trademark infringement. The case would be based on a doctrine called "likelihood of confusion," meaning that someone could easily confuse the InStyler for being connected to InStyle. We rest our case. Are you listening, InStyle?