The mom blogosphere is up in arms this week. There are cries of bullying. Everyone who has ever met me knows that bullying is my least favorite word. If you claim “bully” you’d best be prepared to demonstrate that there’s been an unrelenting malicious campaign against you by someone with more power than yourself.
There is clearly a conflict between TheHonestToddler.com and The Honest Company but if anyone tells you that someone’s been bullied you’re reading an opinion piece and nothing about it will make you smarter, well informed or more capable of running a business.
A local mom approached me and asked me what I knew about The Honest Company v. The Honest Toddler and I sort of shrugged and told her I knew nothing. The she was like it’s Internet Drama and was like Oh my god tell me about it because pageviews!! Errr ummm… I mean because I’d like to see what the real story is.
Like every story ever told there are at least two sides to this one and a third side, that’s the one that’s not emotional and no one will ever see.
I sent an email over to Bunmi Laditan and I asked her to please give me the facts without any emotion and as close to a timeline as possible.
This is what she said:
Last spring I began the twitter account @HonestToddler. I took off quickly. The Honest Company emailed me excitedly asking for a conference call so that they could write a story on about the Twitter feed. It’s still on their website:
Shortly after that, I got a book deal with Simon & Schuster in the US, Harper Collins Canada, and Orion in the UK.
I began to trademark “honest toddler” in the winter of 2012. It was all going well and passed all of the initial stages of trademarking.
Earlier this year The Honest Company emailed me asking to speak to me about my trademark application. I spoke to a man named Sean who after pleasantries were done, told me that The Honest Company wanted me to cancel my tradmark application and they would them license it back to me with limited use. I expressed my discomfort with this. Why did theythink they had this right? He said if I did not do this, we would enter into a “mini litigation that could get costly for me.” I stopped taking their phone calls and shared what happened on Facebook. The backlash against them was intense.
Immediately I received a phone call from Christopher Gavigan, the company’s CEO who ensured me that it was all a misunderstanding. I was led to believe that Sean was speaking out of turn and in good faith, removed the posted and we hosted a giveaway for diapers on my Facebook page.
About a month after, they opposed my trademark. I then hired a lawyer. In the legal documents they claim that my trademark is bringing confusion to the mark place.
Darren Star, the producer of Sex and the City optioned the rights to Honest Toddler.
I was notified from my lawyer that The Honest Company sent Darren Star a letter saying I was infringing on their trademarks and that they should contact them directly. The statements contained in their letter were pure fiction. I have done nothing to violate the law in any manner whatsoever.
This is where we are now.
Well, to be fair this is where they’re at right now. The Honest Toddler has this to say to The Honest Company.
Note: allegedly the child is saying “ridiculous”…. ummmm okay Mrs. Pottymouth over here heard something else. Calling Dr. Freud….
If you go to the Honest Toddler’s facebook page you’ll see a steady scathing stream of documentation of the legal wranglings between the Honest Company and The Honest Toddler. I decided to put in a call to The Honest Company and this afternoon Christopher Gavigan called me.
The call went exactly like this bloggers never make things up and there’s no possible way this didn’t happen:
CHRISTOPHER GAVIGAN: Hi Jessica, it’s Christopher Gavigan from the Honest Company.
ME: Hey, how are you.
ME: So I called because I want to know what’s happening between you and The Honest Toddler
CG: Oh, nothing at all, we were just trying to crush her. We basically hate women. And kids too.
ME: Awesome that’s exactly what I thought. Let me hurry up and publish this.
Or not. My conversation with Christopher Gavigan (who is the CEO of The Honest Company, past CEO of Healthy Child, author of Healthy Child Healthy World and by all accounts a bit of an altruist) was enlightening.
Christopher explained to me in clear terms that The Honest Company was acting in an uncomplicated manner and working only to protect their brand. The co founders of The Honest Company have spent years creating their products, business and brand. In March of 2012 The Honest Company registered the website HonestToddler.com. The site sat dormant until recently.
Christopher did not tell me this though I assume that owning HonestToddler.com was an attempt to protect the brand.
In July of 2012 Bunmi Laditan hit twitter with @HonestToddler and the internet laughed it’s ass off. She brings the funny.
According to Gavigan The Honest Company loves The Honest Toddler’s blog. They want to see her continue to write, have TV shows, books and blogs. In fact they’re such fans that they tried to create a coexistence agreement with Laditan.
Coexistence agreements pretty common when two entities overlap with trademarks. In this instance the coexistence agreement would allow TheHonestToddler.com to continue blogging, writing and making TV but protect The Honest Company’s trademark as it relates to shampoos, strollers and the like. Had The Honest Company not asked for this (at a minimum) they’d put themselves out of business. This is not just standard practice, this is generous.
According to Gavigan The Honest Company is having a conversation with TheHonestToddler.com about trademark. They (The Honest Company) have a business founded on moms doing well. Bloggers are important to them and they want The Honest Toddler to do business, they just need to protect their existing trademark. He goes on to say, “We have not defamed, bullied, or been mean in any way. Nor are we trying to lock up the word ‘Honest’ in a trademark – we simply have ‘superior rights’ in certain classes, and are acting, like any entity, to protect that which we were granted first.”
Gavigan told me no less than three times that he wanted to see Laditan succeed. He reiterated the fact that he wanted to see her on TV and loves TheHonestToddler.com. Unfortunately when solopreneurs get letters from lawyers they typically freak out. This is posted on Facebook.
As with most legal actions this looks like a complete breakdown of communication. I can’t imagine what Bunmi Laditan feels like right now. She’s probably worried that she’s going to lose a TV deal. I can tell you this, she might. I can also tell you something that no one else will be kind enough to tell you. If she loses the deal it won’t be because of a lawyer’s letter. Lawyers write letters all the time. If she loses the TV deal it will be because of the epic meltdown and rallying of the troops on her Facebook page (which boasts an impressive 151,000 fans).
I don’t know what to say to The Honest Company. They’ve put up an explanation at HonestToddler.com and it would be great if bloggers would read that rather than calling a trademark owner a bully. Ladian has posted her own timeline of events.
My hope is that both sides will talk, there will be a coexistence agreement and we’ll get to laugh with The Honest Toddler on TV, online and in print. Most importantly bloggers covering this as a spectacle need to keep in mind that it takes a lot of work to build a brand. So many of us want to be taken seriously and when companies approach us and want to work with us we need to be able to tell them how we influence others. If your only value is demolition ask yourself how much that’s worth.