Fragrance Fights over Fragrance Flights

By Joseph Mandour on May 8, 2012

perfume_bottle-thumb-200x149-41040 Orange County – MiN New York is claiming that Sephora, the national retailer of cosmetics and fragrances, has violated its trademark rights to the term Fragrance Flights. In response, Sephora argues that the term is generic similar to “wine flights” for use by a wine bar.

MiN New York is a boutique offering fragrances, hair care products, soaps, candles, and home decorating accessories. MiN New York has been offering its customers the opportunity to sample several fragrances at the same time, similar to a wine bar offering small samplings of wine. Calling the sampling process a “fragrance flight,” it was not surprising that MiN was unhappy to hear that Sephora is now offering a similar experience under the same name.

Sephora has based its personalized fragrance flight bars off the Sensorium pop-up shop it hosted last year. The company has described the experience as an opportunity for its customers to sample scents without bias, using their “impressions” instead of judging the scents by traditional fragrance notes. At the flight bars, the scents are broken down into four groups: addictive, playful, casual, and chic, and are all presented in stemless wine glasses.

The concept behind the fragrance flights is that since the scents are offered for sample unbranded, the customer will actually choose something they like the smell of, rather than simply choosing it based on its brand or alluring packaging.

After MiN issued a statement to the press saying that Sephora had “blatantly disregarded copyrighted and trademarked content owned by MiN New York,” Sephora issued its own statement, saying:

“Today’s press report on racked.com is the first we heard of any problem with MiN NY. Sephora is also a brand owner and takes claims of infringement very seriously but in this case, there seems to be a misunderstanding on MiN’s part. MiN is not the first retailer to offer personalized fragrance sampling and will not be the last. MiN’s use of “fragrance flight” dating back to 2010 seems to be a generic use, using “fragrance flight” in the same manner that a wine bar uses “wine flight,” and not as a brand. Sephora used Fragrance Flight and Fragrance Flight Bar in connection with its Sensorium exhibit in 2011, without any protest from MiN and without generating any confusion.”

It would appear that MiN New York has an uphill battle in proving that its “trademark” is not generic.

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