Happy New Year!
In case you missed it on Facebook…it’s all finally over. I received my trademark in the mail complete with a fancy looking seal. Thank you, everyone, for your support. It meant EVERYTHING. It feels fantastic to actually own the name I blog under.
Thank you thank you thank you thank you!
It’s been a long and crazy ride. First, I want to thank all of you for your support. It has meant more to me than you’ll ever know. I checked this morning and the petition to stop the opposition to my Honest Toddler trademark has almost 10,000 signatures. Amazing.
Since this all began I’ve shared my story with Good Morning America, Canada AM, CNBC, and a number of newspapers and blogs. I’ve received emails from scores of people who have been through the same thing: small business owners up against corporations headed by fancy legal firms. You’ve urged me to keep going and I will, for as long as it takes. I appreciate the offer some of you have made to set up a legal fund, but we’ve talked it over as a family and want to do this ourselves. Knowing you’re in our corner in spirit is enough.
You may remember that from the beginning, The Honest Company has claimed to have offered me a “forever and free” licensing agreement. By now we all know this isn’t true. The licensing agreement was for 365 after which I’d have to cease and desist. They recently admitted to CNBC and their Facebook fans that the second one was for 50 years.
50 years may seem like a long time but why oh why would I want Jessica Alba’s children and grandchildren to inherit the fruits of my work rather than mine?
Aside from that, me licensing the use of my own name, Honest Toddler, is ridiculous. It puts me in the position of answering to The Honest Company. They can revoke that license for a myriad of reasons at any time. Would Domino’s Pizza tell Domino Sugar to license their name from them? Dove Chocolate to Dove Soap? Have they asked something similar of HonestKids juice? No. So why does The Honest Company feel as if they need to own me and my work?
In an interview with a blogger, Chris Gavigan, their CEO, said that they had tried to come to a coexisting agreement with me. That’s when two companies decide to…coexist without overlapping where products are concerned.
Of course they’d want me to succeed with a licensing agreement. They’d essentially own Honest Toddler and I’d be renting it.
This coexistence agreement mentioned above never came so I had my lawyer draft one and a few moments ago, I sent it to The Honest Company. I’ve agreed to not create products, not just eco-friendly products that could compete with theirs, but any products. This is a huge sacrifice as many bloggers make promotional items to sell, but my focus has always been on writing first which is why I tweeted and blogged anonymously for so long.
We’ve reached a moment of truth. If The Honest Company really just wants to protect their natural diaper and soap company they should have no problem with a true coexistence agreement and removing their opposition to my Honest Toddler trademark.
The US Trademark and Patent Office did not find my trademark to be in violation with any other marks. That’s why they gave it pre-approval and published it. Right now, The Honest Company is the only roadblock in me owning the name I’ve been writing under.
How a humor blogger can be a threat to a natural products company with celebrity endorsements is beyond me but I’ve done everything to remove all doubt that I will one day begin crafting diapers and lotions in my home.
I often wonder how this even got this far. Why couldn’t we just have started with a coexistence agreement? On The Honest Company website they say:
“We created The Honest Company to fulfill our big dreams, hoping we would make the right choices – following our hearts and consciences, with each detail and every decision – that would result in positive impacts…because at our core we simply want to always try to be better.”
Well, Honest Company, here’s a chance for you to be better. Better than your lawyers are perhaps telling you to be. You sound like you want to do good things in the world, so do them.
The ball is in your court.
Three years ago I was curled up in fetal position on my bed. I was in the throes of labor but to an outsider I probably just looked like I had food poisoning. Over the years I’ve learned that I have an unnaturally high pain tolerance. Coupled with an acquired “never show any signs of weakness” trait that I’d picked up somewhere, a stranger who happened to walk by my laboring form would most likely say something about never eating fish where you can’t smell the sea.
The funny thing about labor pains is that for many women, while the memory of exactly what the pain feels like eventually fades, the memory of our response to the feelings remain etched into our consciousness. Books describe contractions as “very strong menstrual cramps” but that’s absolute crap. Most of us have had very strong menstrual cramps without thinking “Dying wouldn’t be so bad.”
If you’ve studied the stages of labor you are familiar with the period known as Transition. While transition is usually the shortest part of labor, it is often the most intense. It’s when the most docile of women start cursing out nurses and the strongest begin to projectile vomit. With my most recent baby, I threw up in a plastic kidney-shaped container and got the shakes. Lovely.
Transition marks the end of the “let’s get this uterus open!” contractions and the start of the “let’s get this baby out!” ones. What makes this time so tricky is that while it signals the home stretch, the tired, anxious woman who may have been laboring beautifully and gracefully, visualizing each contraction as a wave, breathing, counting, eating ice, smiling, imaging her baby, singing show tunes…it’s often a breaking point. Fight or flight sets in. This is the time you’ll hear the birth warrior say things like, “I can’t do this anymore.” It’s common for women to have thoughts of running away from it all, as if a 40+ week pregnant woman 10 centimeters dilated lady would even make it to the door. And then what? Get in a cab to the nearest Starbucks for a muffin leaving the pain behind in the hospital bed?
“Ah, that was close,” she’d say as she sipped a caramel macchiato, bare bum exposed by the hospital gown.
Lamaze, back massages, soothing music….none of the aforementioned pain managements methods are more effective when it comes to keeping one’s sails up during transition than knowing you’re in it. Being able to recognize the signs contextualizes the pain. All of the knowledge in the world won’t necessarily make a woman say, “Ah yes, this is transition. I’m OK now. Come forth, little one,” but when a woman’s support team understands where she is, they can help her remember.
Woman in labor: “Someone please get my shoes. I’m getting out of here.”
Nurse: “You’re ok.”
Woman in labor: “I’m going to die.”
Midwife: “No you’re not. Your baby is almost here.”
Woman in labor: “I am going to cut you.”
Husband: “You don’t mean that…”
Back to my apartment in Montreal. I’d known that I was going to be alone when I gave birth to my second born. I’d dreamed it months earlier and had made my peace. But now, as the formerly manageable contractions, or inner death grips, as they should be named, had taken hold of me, I began to doubt if I’d come out of this in one piece.
In the first dream I’d had, I was having my baby under an orange tree in our backyard. The sun’s light was soft on the grass- the scene was beautiful. It was a far cry from where I was now on a Queen bed in an upper duplex. The second dream was a little more true to life. I was in labor, alone in a room but at the foot of left corner of the bed was God. The form looked like my mom, but I was aware that it was God.
So as I lay trying not to move as contraction after contraction fell on me like wet cement I remembered the second dream. In the dream, I wasn’t lying down curled up, I was in a more upright position. Something said, not in a voice, but in that whisper-like insta-communication we all get sometimes, “You’re not going to have your baby like that.”
Any woman who has had a baby knows how difficult it can be to manipulate one’s body during a contraction and it took every bit of mind-over-matter strength to pull my myself up. I still don’t know how I did it. Within 10 seconds, my baby was out. She let out one semi-annoyed cry as if to say, “Wow that was long” in the same tone that you’d criticize a bus driver for taking a turn too hard.
Three babies deep and I’ve never been able to recognize the signs of transition until the dust settles. It’s only then that I see the signs.
Last week as I sat in days of unending torrential mind rain I kept hearing people say, “Keep going.” They’d pat my brow with a cloth and offer me sips of cool water. For a moment I’d believe them but it would only take another contraction for me to start slipping. “Something is trying to be born,” they’d say to me when all I could smell, see, and taste was a slow and painful descent.
I received an email from a former boss. He runs an empire within the natural baby sphere. I’m not sure, but I think he’s of Eastern European descent- he embodies a no-nonsense, fearless approach to life and it’s amplified by a sharp business sense. He’s also crunchy, not an a stereotypical tie-dye-wearing sense, but in an “of course unschooling makes sense, look at the studies” way. Visualize a cross between Richard Branson and Bear Grylls. He and his wife are the kind of people whose life you look at, the result of living from a place of passionate conviction, and think “I need to do that.”
When he’s not excelling at everything, he’s having fun. His emails always end with something like, “Gotta go, on a plane to Russia” or “I’ll call in twenty minutes, have to do this Iron Man triathlon really quick.”
I always want to ask him, “Are you scared of anything?” I imagine the answer would be. “Scared? What’s the point?” and then he’d turn and hang glide off of a mountain.
He’d gotten wind of what was going on and I shared how I was feeling in a long string of verbal diarrhea.
Bunmi – I know the situation seems and feels super shitty right now, but you have to FOCUS –
Focus on who you really are – a beautiful, creative, gifted woman! Mom to 3 beautiful kids. Wife to a loving husband!
You have an unlimited potential and that’s where your focus needs to be. That’s it! Everything else is trivial.
This whole situation is just a background noise. And you are taking that background noise way too seriously. I am not saying that it should not be dealt with, just take it lightly on a personal level. Don’t let it touch your life and your talents. your creativity, your kids and your husband are really the only big and important things here.
Take your kids out and go run out in the woods and get your real energy back!
I read it and thought, “Woods? Ew.” A dark room seemed much more fitting for my current state but knew he was right. I knew it on a cerebral level but on an emotional one, I was still churning.
I read emails from blogger friends, Facebook messages from readers, tweets and blog posts and could feel the support but was frustrated because it didn’t seem to be helping. Why wasn’t it saving me? Why didn’t I feel better?
I promised my friend Glennon that I’d take a yoga class. Everyone always says it’s important for mothers to take care of themselves. “Put on your mask first” they say, referencing the airline attendant speech about what to do should cabin pressure change. First of all, when the crap hits the fan 30,000 feet no mother is going to put on her oxygen mask first. She’ll put on her kids’ first and they’ll both pass out as she fumbles because that’s just our animal instinct.
The session started at 10am and I didn’t get into my car until 9:45 because what’s a full day without a little self-sabotage. When I arrived it was 10:01 but I could see through the studio window that people were still milling about. I hadn’t missed it. Too bad.
I was welcomed warmly and asked a few questions about my yoga background.
“I’ve done it before,” I dryly assured the teacher as if she was a druggie asking if I knew how use the paraphernalia. “Just give it to me, ” I’d yell grabbing the dirty syringe out of her hand, jumpy with the anticipation of future sedation.
“Oh I remember you! Prenatal yoga! Did you have the baby?”
What kind of question is that? Did I still look pregnant? Maybe I should say “No, it died” so that she’d never ask that question again. I could be a hero for the postpartum among us. But that was a little too morbid. Even for me.
Walking into the room I felt like I’d entered a temple. I’m not sure how yogis do it, it can’t be a simple matter of dimming the lights. I’ve been in many dimly lit rooms. It felt like being inside of one of those Himalayan sea salt lamps. I guess that’s what happen when you dedicate a place to calmness although I’ve heard they do Zumba there a few times a week.
Finding the farthest corner of the dark room I unrolled the provided mat and waited.
The first few poses were a piece of cake. Unfortunately the spot I’d chosen for the sake of invisibility turned out to be a mistake as it didn’t allow for a full range of motion. Each time she called for a large sweeping arm motion my nails audibly scraped against the wall. How are these people supposed to achieve transcendence when I keep causing disturbances? I was forced to inch closer to the woman next to me, not too close, but close enough to violate the efficacy of my personal bubble. I was uncomfortable.
With each movement, each pose melting into the next one, my inner chatter grew more and more distant and my awareness took the elevator from my mind into my body. “Going dooown,” I could almost hear the attendant’s voice.
Child’s pose. This seated, head down, arms outstretched forward position always incites within me an internal struggle. The entire room looks like its frozen in a state of religious devotion. For a devout rebel with an exacerbated sense of “I don’t think so” that can only be developed through being the adult child of a minister, I find this worshipy pose unsettling. At the same time, I can’t deny that it is also the most physically comfortable. It’s a place of rest with an almost massage-like stretch in the back and I’m always a little sad to leave it.
Yoga, like birth, is one of those experiences that create physical sensations that are hard to describe. One of the poses, Pigeon pose, was particularly uncomfortable. I may have been doing something wrong but it felt as if my foot was going to explode. A thigh cramp followed shortly and I was forced to abandon it. I sat on my mat fully expecting the teacher to say something along the lines of, “Hey you in the back ruining the splendor that is the glorious practice of yoga, what are you doing?”
Sixty minutes passed quickly and we were soon in the “cool down” portion of the class. Easy, fluid poses. We were instructed to stand straight up, arms relaxed to the side.
“There is always a certain amount of pressure on top of us,” the teacher said, “The key is to learn to carry the weight elegantly.”
I spent the rest of the day stealing moments to reflect on what the past several days had been like.
No matter how well a woman prepares for childbirth and how expansive and knowledgeable her support team is, there is a bridge on which she will have to walk alone. People can coach from the other side, tell her everything’s fine. They can even stand under the bridge and tell her she’s almost done and is doing great. But as far as putting one foot in front of the other goes and making the trip across what oftentimes looks like a rickety, haphazardly designed wood and rope death trap, she has to make the decision to cross it by herself.
Watching those birth shows you can always tell when the mother surrenders to transition whether she’s on a surgery table or half-submerged in a birthing pool. Her wide darting eyes shrink and grow focused. Once she realizes that the only way out is through, everything changes. You can practically see her abandon her head and tune into her body to enter the moment. Every bit of energy devotes itself to completion; life is coming, burning its way through her and there is no escaping or containing it. No one can do it for her, all they can do as she stands on the bridge is remind her that she’s on it and hope that she believes them.
OK you guys are not in favor of me doing this. Listening to advice doesn’t come naturally for me but I’m going to make an exception and get a little bit of rest and sleep on this. Thank you.
There is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding this unfortunate saga. Sticking purely to the facts, I’d like to post the below.
This all began when I was about eight months pregnant and since then I have gained a beautiful child but lost two years worth of savings fighting this.
I’m sharing my side publicly because The Honest Company has publicly insinuated that I am lying. Read for yourself.
Mom blogger Bunmi Laditan, founder of the blog The Honest Toddler, has released the following Statement of Facts to clarify any questions surrounding the recent trademark dispute with Honest Company. First and foremost, the U.S. Patent Trademark Office granted preliminary approval and published The Honest Toddler’s trademark before The Honest Company attempted to block it.
Second, there is no evidence that consumers are likely to confuse the brands. Many companies operate successfully with similar names. For example, have you ever bought Ritz crackers expecting to be making a hotel reservation at Ritz hotels? Of course not. Consumers can differentiate between different companies that both use the word “honest.”
Mom of 3 kids, Bunmi is a well-meaning, honest and hilarious writer who uses her social media pages to provide humor to parents. Her posts quickly grew into a significant online following that resulted in a book deal and optioned TV series by Hollywood producer Darren Star (producer of Sex & The City).
The Honest Company has even praised Bunmi’s blog and publicized it to their audience. Mom blogger Honest Toddler has no desire to harm The Honest Company in any way and has never tried to interfere with their business. ”I am saddened that The Honest Company has resorted to these threatening legal tactics against a mom blogger. Many companies use the term ‘honest’ and consumers are not confused. I am even more shocked that The Honest Company has resorted to misinforming its customers and betraying the public in an attempt to save face. We are all moms trying to face parenthood honestly, just in different ways.” says Bunmi Laditan.
There has been a lot of misinformation circulated online. Here are the honest facts about what has happened.
March 2012: The domain name honesttoddler.com is purchased by The Honest Company but is NOT used as a live website until July 2013.
May 1, 2012: Mom blogger Bunmi Laditan launches Honest Toddler twitter account on Twitter (Bunmi had no knowledge of The Honest Company’s ownership of honesttoddler.com)
Purchasing a domain name costs about $15. It does not give you exclusive rights to a name. If it did, there are many others who could claim exclusive use of Honest concepts. HonestKids.com was purchased in 2006. Before the Honest Company existed.
HonestKids is also a popular line of juice. They do not own HonestKids.com. Somehow, they co-exist.
The mom behind HonestFamily.blogspot.ca has been blogging since 2010. The Honest Company purchased HonesetFamily.com in 2012. No one is claiming confusion to the marketplace on this one. Why?
In March 2013, Honest Company founder Jessica Alba published, The Honest Life. HonestLiving.org was established in 2010.
The mom behind HonestMom.com blogs about motherhood, raising daughters, humor and depression. In March of 2013, she was interviewed on television by Katie Couric.
THEHonestMom.com also exists. From her website, it seems as if she has been blogging since 2011. Somehow, thehonestmom.com and honestmom.com coexist.
September 5, 2012: The Honest Company interviews Mom blogger Honest Toddler, praises the hilarious blog, The Honest Toddler, and publishes the Honest Toddler interview on its blog (which is a bizarre thing to do if The Honest Company is so worried about consumers being confused by Honest Toddler!)
September, 2012: Book publisher Simon & Schuster offers Bunmi Laditan a book deal based on The Honest Toddler blog and Twitter feed.
September 27, 2012: Mom blogger Bunmi Laditan files the Honest Toddler trademark application with U.S. Patent Trademark Office
April 2, 2013: U.S. Patent Trademark Office finds that Honest Toddler’s trademark is not confusing with any current marks, grants preliminary approval, and publishes the mark.
April 20, 2013: The Honest Company contacts Mom blogger Honest Toddler and offers to license her the use of the trademark for 365 days ONLY if she withdraws the trademark application. After 365 days, Laditan would be required to stop using the name Honest Toddler in all forms, including on her blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, television series, and future books.
May 20, 2013: The Honest Company threatens to block the Honest Toddler trademark unless blogger mom Bunmi Laditan agrees to the license agreement that would limit her use of the mark to 1 year.
May 21, 2013: The Honest Company enters official Notice of Opposition against the application filed by blogger Bunmi Laditan for the mark “Honest Toddler”.
June, 2013: Darren Star (producer of Sex & The City) options the rights to Honest Toddler for a potential TV show.
July 23, 2013: The Honest Company’s attorneys send a letter to Hollywood producer Darren Star and mis-informs Mr. Star that his intended use of the “Honest Toddler” constitutes trademark infringement (which is a legally and factually false statement).
July 28, 2013: The website honesttoddler.com is launched by Honest Company with a tirade about mom blogger Bunmi Laditan’s refusal to withdraw her rightfully filed trademark application.
Myth: The Honest Company is protecting its business names.
FACT: The Honest Toddler was the first to use the mark in commerce and had no desire to prevent the Honest Company from using the word “honest” to promote its line of eco-friendly baby products. Many companies operate successfully with similar names. Consumers are not confused by Dove Soap and Dove Chocolates.
Myth: The Honest Company offered a license to Honest Toddler to use the trademark “Honest Toddler” forever and for free
FACT: The Honest Company offered a license for the Honest Toddler to use the trademark only for 365 days. This would prevent Honest Toddler from using this mark beyond 365 days from the date the license agreement was signed.
Myth: The Honest Toddler trademark is in a class that would be confusing with the marks owned by Honest Company
FACT: The Honest Toddler’s mark is in a trademark class specifically for media and entertainment, which is fitting for a mom blogger. All but one of Honest Company’s trademarks are in different trademark classes. Their only mark in the same class as The Honest Toddler is HonestBaby, which they purchased from a mom blogger in 2012, but do not use in commerce. If searched, the link simply re-directs consumers to The Honest Company’s main page.
Myth: Consumers are confused by the similarities between The Honest Company and The Honest Toddler.
FACT: The Honest Company sells eco-friendly baby products. The Honest Toddler writes a hilarious blog about parenting. There is no evidence of consumer confusion. The public can easily differentiate between Ritz crackers and Ritz hotels and can also differentiate between The Honest Company and The Honest Toddler. The Honest Company was so impressed by The Honest Toddler, that they interviewed The Honest Toddler, praised her success, and posted the interview on their blog! The only thing that is confusing is why The Honest Company intentionally praised and publicized an alleged competitor that would lead to confusion.
Last night I was in a place darker than any place I’ve ever had the displeasure of visiting. To say the fog was thick would be the understatement of a lifetime. Months of tension, weeks of fear, days of anger led up to a 12 hour obsessive Internet checking, reading, responding and defending marathon. I’d heard things would get ugly and they did. What was once a fun, for the first time felt like a job. And a bad one at that.
But I’m a strong woman, right? I can handle it. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. And then it happened. Not a physical death. No flowers, procession of loved ones, or long speeches about a life well lived. Just an all-encompassing mental retreat. I felt a walking crime scene. A zombie. Despite the outpouring of support, I found myself facing my own personal night.
I tortured myself, playing the day’s events in my mind over and over. Rather than focus on the positive comments, I put the words “she lied” “she stole” “she mislead” on repeat. I imagined someone standing on a raised platform shouting the accusations to a listening crowd of thousands. “SHE LIED” “SHE STOLE” “SHE MISLEAD” over and over. I could feel the burn of being raked over coals.
Pretty soon the chants changed to “SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD” and before I knew what was happening I was shouting along with the crowd. “SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD!” I wasn’t saying the words out loud but letting them find rest inside of me felt like the same thing.
Maybe sticks and stones would have been better. At least I’d have physical evidence, real scars to match what was growing behind my eyes.
If you’ve seen The Perfect Storm you’re probably haunted, as I am, by once of the final scenes. Mark Wahlberg’s character is left alone, without a ship, without a crew, floating on massive dark waves. They waves are viciously unapologetic and majestic, in the way mother nature so often is. In those final moments what was the doomed fisherman thinking? Even though death was a certainty, he still had a choice: sink or swim. In that moment, he could still decide. Alone and face to face with his end, he was not completely without options.
After the children had gone to sleep, I went opened my front door and went outside. The thick humidity of day had broken into a tremendous downpour of rain. The weather conditions had left the streets devoid of man and only the occasional car passed by. I took a seat on the stoop. My body was soaked in a matter of minutes plastering my dress to me like shrink wrap. Sink or swim. I couldn’t decide. With every wave that tossed me up and then down again, it was getting harder and harder to catch my breath. Not because there was no air, it was all around me, the fear just gobbled it up before I had a chance to partake. What would they say about me next? When will they say it? Who will hear it? Who will believe them? When? Who? What? When? Where? What? Who? When? What if? Why? My arms grew limp and the water rose to cover my mouth and nose. In one single action I slipped below the surface and eyes closed. Silence. The terror of losing myself to the nothingness was immediately calmed by the relief of no longer having to fight against the current.
I didn’t dare open my eyes for fear of what I might see. I could hear deep echos in the distance, not the beautiful sort made my whales, but a deep familiar groan. No longer in charge of my movements, I traveled to wherever the undertow dictated. We made the memory rounds visiting every ghost I thought I’d packed away. For a moment I entertained the idea of making a grab at the surface, using all of my strength to push myself upward but as quickly as the thought came, it was rebutted. Surely it’s better to get used to my new home rather than risking experiencing the descent again. Because isn’t the fall the worst part? We’re scared of the plane crash but utterly terrified of the moments preceding it.
Morning came and and I was still frozen. I was given an ultimatum: either get help or I’d be driven to a hospital. Three hours later I was sitting across from a professional. I felt comfortable in her medium-sized office and tried my hardest to look normal. I spoke. Explained everything.
“They said…” “I felt…” “Why…”
She listened. As the words left my mouth, some of the sting did, too. I continued.
“I just can’t take the idea of people thinking these things about me. I feel like my name is ruined. I don’t know why this is happening.”
She paused and looked at me intently.
“It’s happening so that you can find out who you are.”
“When you know who you are, anyone can say anything to you without you internalizing it.”
“But they’re saying I’m__________.”
“Then who are you.”
I almost said, “Who do you want me to be” but decided to take a moment to think.
“Are you a good person?”
“Then why does it matter what they said.”
“Because people might believe them.”
“But what do you believe.”
And suddenly, the realization that what I believe about myself is more important than what anyone else does fell on top of me like a cloak. It was slightly ill-fitting and felt rather uncomfortable to be honest, but it was mine.
The “SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD SHE’S BADs” grew quieter. I felt a small glow begin to emerge in my center and it frightened me. No gifts, please. I’ve gotten used to this drowning thing.
“It’s time for you to stop listening to the negativity and find your own voice. Who are you?”
“I know who I am,” I said tentatively like a child taking their first wobbly steps, “I’m kind. Stubborn. Smart.”
I started feeling self-conscious and couldn’t contain a shy smile.
After I’d finished, she went on, “One day you’re going to thank this company.”
I laughed loudly but it only took three or four seconds to realize she was on to something.
Up until that moment in her office I’d always acted based on who I am but had also used other people’s trash to piece together my self-image. Compliments were deflected or held in my hands awkwardly the way an amateur chef would handle truffles. But criticisms: whether constructive or shot to kill, those would be picked apart like a chicken dinner and consumed down to the cartilage.
On the drive home I sat in the passenger’s seat and watched the rain make hieroglyphics on the windshield. “Sink or swim,” I was asked again. Swim. Most definitely, swim.