Curly Girl Method: The Deterioration of a Trade Mark

Article  \  21 Aug 2023

When you ask adults how they first started looking after their curly hair, the response is often the “Curly Girl Method” (CGM). 

The CGM, first advocated by hairstylist Lorraine Massey in her 2001 book, suggests limiting damage to curly hair by eliminating harsh substances and hair equipment, replacing this with certain styling solutions. Many consider CGM to be the gold standard for curl care.

A few years ago, Ms Massey began a campaign to stop unofficial usage of the brand Modified Curly Girl (or Guy) and prevent others from registering similar trade marks. In her view, the phrase should only be used in relation to her own CGM. 

Unsurprisingly, given the number of years that had elapsed, this tactic has had limited success. A quick search of Instagram for the hashtag #modifiedcurlygirlmethod returns over 1,000 results, many of which do not seem to be about or even promote the CGM.

Unfortunately, Ms Massey did not register the brand CURLY GIRL or any other variation of it until a decade after the publication of her book. Massey’s inaction has made it possible for a number of additional CURLY GIRL trade marks owned by unrelated third parties to be registered worldwide.  

The brand has now arguably lost its ability to act as an indicator of trade source, and any distinctiveness the CGM brand may have had initially has been allowed to deteriorate. 

Developing a well-thought-out strategy and protecting her intellectual property would have been the smart thing to do, as it would have preserved the integrity of the CGM brand for Ms Massey’s exclusive benefit.

For expert advice, or assistance with devising a strategy to protect your intellectual property, please contact one of our attorneys.

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