Monday, October 31, 2011

Nightmare at Maybelline!!!

Happy Halloween!!  Speaking of scary nightmare stories, here is one that actually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened for Tom Lyle Williams and Maybelline.
 There was one tiny little problem with the Williams copyright. A St. Louis man by the name of Benjamin Ansehl had started a company called Lashbrow Laboratories in 1912 and was already marketing a similar product. Williams sued for copyright infringement by Ansehl and a counter suit immediately ensued.


The case of ANSEHL v. WILLIAMS was heard in the Circuit Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, St. Louis, Missouri, July 15, 1920. You can read the entire decision, but here is a little background of the case as recorded in The Federal Reporter:

In September, 1915, appellee [Williams], under the name of Maybell Laboratories, commenced selling at Chicago, Ill., a preparation for promoting and stimulating the growth of eyebrows and lashes, under the tradename of Lash-Brow-Ine. The name was suggested by preparations of a similar character then on the market under the names of Eye-BrowIne and Lashneen. The suffix "ine" was used, because the principal ingredient contained in appellee's preparation was chiefly petrolatum, a form of vaseline. Appellee commenced to advertise his preparation in October, 1915, and since then has advertised in over 50 different magazines, and had paid for advertising at the time of trial $67,084.19; the monthly expense for advertising having increased to about $3,000 per month. The preparation, sold directly to consumers at 50 cents per box, had amounted to 149,000 mail orders since the business was started. Sales were also made in gross to about 3,000 dealers, located in every state of the Union. Appellee testified that he never heard of Lashbrow, or Lashbrow Laboratories, until about September 1, 1918. About November 1, 1918, appellee caused appellant [Ansehl] to be notified to cease infringing appellee's trade-mark. Appellant refusing so to do, this suit was commenced December 17, 1918.

Since commencing the sale of his preparation appellee has done a business amounting to $111,759.73. The trade-mark Lash-Brow-Ine was registered in the United States Patent Office April 24, 1917. The main ingredients of the preparation sold by appellee were a superfine petrolatum and paraffine, a high-grade perfume, and other small ingredients. No reply was received by appellee to the notification above stated until November 11, 1918, when the receipt of the letter of appellee of November 1, 1918, was acknowledged with a statement that appellant had used the trade-mark "Lashbrow" much earlier than 1915, and a request that appellee desist from infringing the same, or suit would be brought by the appellant for an injunction and an accounting. No such suit was brought.There was introduced in evidence a large number of advertisements appearing in various publications. The evidence on the part of appellant showed that he conceived the idea of manufacturing and putting on the market a preparation for stimulating and promoting the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes in 1911; that the formula for this preparation was one used by his mother for her eyebrows and eyelashes when she was a girl. Appellant commenced selling his preparation in the spring of 1912, under the trade-mark of "Lashbrow," to a small drug store on Jefferson and Lafayette avenues in the city of St. Louis, Mo. This was followed by soliciting trade from all the large dealers and retail stores in St. Louis, where the preparation was offered for sale. Appellant then started a campaign of advertising which began on October 12, 1912, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This advertising brought him business from nearby states, such as Illinois and Indiana, and the entire Southwest. Appellant's business has been conducted since its commencement at 1755 Preston street, St. Louis, Mo., where he was doing business when enjoined in May, 1919. The stores referred to by appellant in his testimony were Wolf-Wilson, Judge & Dolph, Grand Leader, Famous & Barr, Nugent's, Hirsch's Hair Bazaar, and Schaper, being the leading stores in St. Louis. The preparation was sold through these stores in 1912. Appellant had printed 1,000 cardboard fliers and 1,000 transparent fliers, which were mailed to about 1,500 stores throughout the United States. A counter display card was also distributed throughout the country in 1913. A sample of appellant's preparation was mailed to the buyers of about 800 or 900 department stores throughout the country.


It's an interesting look at doing business in the early twentieth century and the birth of a mega corp.

In October, 1920 the decision was set down in favor of Benjamin Ansehl. Williams had to stop using the Lash-Brow-Ine name. From then on the ads, like the one at left featuring film star Phyllis Haver, featured only the Maybelline name. Williams had lost the battle. But a walk down any cosmetics aisle will tell you he clearly won the war.

There was one tiny little problem with the Williams copyright. A St. Louis man by the name of Benjamin Ansehl had started a company called Lashbrow Laboratories in 1912 and was already marketing a similar product. Williams sued for copyright infringement by Ansehl and a counter suit immediately ensued.



The case of ANSEHL v. WILLIAMS was heard in the Circuit Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, St. Louis, Missouri, July 15, 1920. You can read the entire decision, but here is a little background of the case as recorded in The Federal Reporter:







In September, 1915, appellee [Williams], under the name of Maybell Laboratories, commenced selling at Chicago, Ill., a preparation for promoting and stimulating the growth of eyebrows and lashes, under the tradename of Lash-Brow-Ine. The name was suggested by preparations of a similar character then on the market under the names of Eye-BrowIne and Lashneen. The suffix "ine" was used, because the principal ingredient contained in appellee's preparation was chiefly petrolatum, a form of vaseline. Appellee commenced to advertise his preparation in October, 1915, and since then has advertised in over 50 different magazines, and had paid for advertising at the time of trial $67,084.19; the monthly expense for advertising having increased to about $3,000 per month. The preparation, sold directly to consumers at 50 cents per box, had amounted to 149,000 mail orders since the business was started. Sales were also made in gross to about 3,000 dealers, located in every state of the Union. Appellee testified that he never heard of Lashbrow, or Lashbrow Laboratories, until about September 1, 1918. About November 1, 1918, appellee caused appellant [Ansehl] to be notified to cease infringing appellee's trade-mark. Appellant refusing so to do, this suit was commenced December 17, 1918.



Since commencing the sale of his preparation appellee has done a business amounting to $111,759.73. The trade-mark Lash-Brow-Ine was registered in the United States Patent Office April 24, 1917. The main ingredients of the preparation sold by appellee were a superfine petrolatum and paraffine, a high-grade perfume, and other small ingredients. No reply was received by appellee to the notification above stated until November 11, 1918, when the receipt of the letter of appellee of November 1, 1918, was acknowledged with a statement that appellant had used the trade-mark "Lashbrow" much earlier than 1915, and a request that appellee desist from infringing the same, or suit would be brought by the appellant for an injunction and an accounting. No such suit was brought.



There was introduced in evidence a large number of advertisements appearing in various publications. The evidence on the part of appellant showed that he conceived the idea of manufacturing and putting on the market a preparation for stimulating and promoting the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes in 1911; that the formula for this preparation was one used by his mother for her eyebrows and eyelashes when she was a girl. Appellant commenced selling his preparation in the spring of 1912, under the trade-mark of "Lashbrow," to a small drug store on Jefferson and Lafayette avenues in the city of St. Louis, Mo. This was followed by soliciting trade from all the large dealers and retail stores in St. Louis, where the preparation was offered for sale. Appellant then started a campaign of advertising which began on October 12, 1912, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This advertising brought him business from nearby states, such as Illinois and Indiana, and the entire Southwest. Appellant's business has been conducted since its commencement at 1755 Preston street, St. Louis, Mo., where he was doing business when enjoined in May, 1919. The stores referred to by appellant in his testimony were Wolf-Wilson, Judge & Dolph, Grand Leader, Famous & Barr, Nugent's, Hirsch's Hair Bazaar, and Schaper, being the leading stores in St. Louis. The preparation was sold through these stores in 1912. Appellant had printed 1,000 cardboard fliers and 1,000 transparent fliers, which were mailed to about 1,500 stores throughout the United States. A counter display card was also distributed throughout the country in 1913. A sample of appellant's preparation was mailed to the buyers of about 800 or 900 department stores throughout the country.

It's an interesting look at doing business in the early twentieth century and the birth of a mega corp.

In October, 1920 the decision was set down in favor of Benjamin Ansehl. Williams had to stop using the Lash-Brow-Ine name. From then on the ads, like the one at left featuring film star Phyllis Haver, featured only the Maybelline name. Williams had lost the battle. But a walk down any cosmetics aisle will tell you he clearly won the war.
Posted by
The Chicago History Journal
Chicago Law History by Joe Mathewson


Recommended reading:

Phyllis Haver: When Stars Burn Out (Tattered and Lost Ephemera)

Lash-Brow-Ine (Cosmetics and Skin)

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