August 1, 2017

Celebrity Endorsement Provokes Patent Infringement Claim

By Bryan K. Wheelock, Principal

Snap Light LLC recently filed suit against Kim Kardashian’s company Kimsaprincess, Inc., as well as her collaborator Urban Outfitters, Inc., for patent infringement.  As improbable as that sounds, knowing that the patent in question — U.S. Patent No. 8,428,644 — covers a phone case with a light source for taking improved selfies, may shed some … ahem … light on the matter.

Kardashian, who the suit claims has more than “165 million highly engaged social followers,” has been known to endorse rival selfie case maker LuMee through her social media accounts. The suit also claims that Kardashian has designed selfie cases for LuMee and is an official partner of the company.

Seemingly, Snap Light’s real complaint may be the power of Kardashian’s endorsement rather than the LuMee product itself that she is endorsing.  Snap Light’s comparison of the patent with the LuMee device shows at least one significant difference between the claims and the accused device:

The patent claims require an “integrated right of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights,” while the LuMee case has two parallel rows of lights “like a conventional make-up mirror.”  Another issue the patent owner may have to address is whether the claim mixes a method step (“provide”) in a apparatus claim.

The suit is notable for the simple reason that the complaint seems more focused on Kardashian’s marketing activities than whether the product actually infringes.