California - In a complaint filed last Wednesday, Beardo, Inc. brought a lawsuit under the name of its parent company, Stat Ltd., claiming that three other companies have infringed on its popular hat design. The Beardo hats, which are sold online and in stores across the nation, are similar to traditional ski hats or beanies except that they feature an attached piece in the shape of a beard that covers the face. In its complaint, Beardo claims that two California companies and one in Utah willfully infringed on the design, for which it holds a patent.
The patent, which is entitled, "Combined ski face mask and hat", covers the entire hat and "beard" portion of the accessory and was filed in August of 2011. The allegedly infringing companies, namely Beard Head, Bearded Apparel and Neon Eaters, have not yet responded to the claims against them, but Beardo has demanded that all three immediately stop producing their own hats and that they also pay compensatory and punitive damages. Beard Head offers three types of beard hats that range from "Stubble" to "Long" while Neon Eater offers a "Lumberjack" hat with a detachable beard.
In the complaint, Beardo argues that its "design is inherently distinctive, or alternatively, has acquired secondary meaning" and that, "The famousness and popularity of Beardo's design is reflected in the significant efforts Beardo (and/or its owner) have taken to publicize its products, in its significant publicity Beardo's design has received, and by its significant popularity amongst consumers of combined ski facemasks and hats." To prove its popularity among consumers, Beardo points out that at the time of the complaint, it had 165,737 'likes' on its Facebook page, while Beard Head had 15,869 'likes' and Neon Eaters had only 350 'likes.'
According to the Beardo website, consumers can now purchase hats with attached beards, detachable beards or no beards at all, in addition to facemasks and other accessories. Currently, the products are available to customers in seven countries, including founder Jeff Phillips' home country of Canada. Given that Phillips describes Beardo as his "brainchild" on the company's "About" page, in addition to the recent pop culture craze over all things moustache and beard-related, it is likely that this is not the last we will hear about the fight over these quirky accessories.