- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Jaden Smith’s bottled water company, Just Goods, is suing an embattled vegan mayo startup that recently changed its name from Hampton Creek to Just.
- In a lawsuit, Smith’s company claims Hampton Creek’s rebrand violates a 2014 trademark agreement between the two companies.
- Just (formerly Hampton Creek) is now alleging that Smith’s company put Just Goods labels on products that weren’t theirs as a means of boosting their claim to the name.
- A video shared with Business Insider shows a representative from Just (formerly Hampton Creek) peeling off what it claims is a fake label from Just Goods on a bottle of olive oil made in Spain by another company.
The name represents fairness.
But this week, a legal battle over deception between two companies called “Just” began to simmer. One is a maker of vegan mayo, cookie dough, and salad dressings, formerly called Hampton Creek. The other is Jaden Smith’s Just Goods, which makes bottled water packaged in paper and allegedly had plans to sell other items, like olive oil.
Smith’s company sued Just last year for alleging that it violated the terms of an agreement between both companies which dictated when each could use the name “Just.” But most recently, Just shot back, alleging in counterclaims that Just Goods created fake products – in some cases, by allegedly sticking a fake label on another company’s items – in an attempt to bolster their claims to the “Just” label.
‘Misrepresentations and deceptions’
In the most recent court filing, representatives from the vegan mayo startup alleged that Smith’s company used “misrepresentations and deceptions” in a “hurried attempt to fabricate” products that would support its claims to the “Just” brand name.
One of those alleged deceptions is a package of olive oil which the vegan mayo company claims was not made by Smith’s company.
In a video shared with Business Insider, presented in court, and described in the counterclaim, a representative from Just (formerly Hampton Creek) can be seen ordering the olive oil, which is listed on Smith’s Just Goods website. In the video, the representative is seen peeling off a label that reads “Just Olive Oil” and revealing a different label hidden underneath that instead reads “ONLY: Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.”
That label bears the same name and appearance as a product offered by a company called Lycompany, whose “ONLY: Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil” products are sold online through vendors like Amazon.
Ken Hertz, the attorney representing Smith’s Just Goods company, said in a statement emailed to Business Insider that the video and the vegan mayo company’s claims are a distraction meant to “besmirch Just Goods.” Hertz also told BuzzFeed News that its labeling of the olive oil was a “common practice as companies develop their businesses,” adding that having one company manufacture a product for another is “perfectly acceptable with the Trademark Office and in the marketplace.”
A representative for Lycompany told Business Insider in an email that it was unaware that its products were allegedly being used this way.
The beginning: A peaceful agreement
- Biz Carson/Business Insider
The olive oil debacle was not the spark that ignited the controversy between the two Just brands.
The apparent brand war appears to have begun as early as 2014 when then the company then known as Hampton Creek – which calls its leading product Just Mayo – entered into a trademark agreement with Smith’s Just Goods that outlined the terms under which each company could use the word “just.”
Just Goods’ demands in its 2017 complaint included that the mayo startup stop using the name “Just, Inc.” and adjust its use of the word “Just” in branding,” as well as pay damages suffered by Just Goods as a result of that branding.
From ‘Hampton Creek’ to ‘Just’
Beginning last June (roughly three years after the trademark agreement), Hampton Creek abandoned the Hampton Creek label and began calling itself simply “Just.”
From a product design perspective, the name change could be seen as strategic. For years, Hampton Creek had been mired in controversies, ranging from a since-dropped federal inquiry into allegations of artificially-inflated sales figures to an investigation into whether its egg-free mayo product could legally be called mayonnaise.
Instead of containers of Just Mayo with the word “just” written in small, cursive letters and the word “mayo” in big, bold print in the center, newer packages condiment flipped the arrangement, showing the word “just” followed by a period in big letters and the word “mayo” (or another type of dressing, like “ranch”) underneath in smaller print.
To an outsider, it may have seemed like a somewhat logical leap.
But Smith’s company didn’t think so.
Several weeks after Hampton Creek’s partial rebrand, Smith’s company, Just Goods, sued the company and its CEO, Josh Tetrick. Smith’s company argued that Tetrick’s rebrand violated the terms of their 2014 agreement.
At the time of the initial lawsuit, Tetrick’s company was still known as Hampton Creek, according to the state of California; its Just rebrand wasn’t officially recognized by the Secretary of State until February of this year.
Just(ice) can’t be rushed
In the counterclaim, representatives from Tetrick’s company allege that Smith’s company hastily added an “innovation” tab to its website to house fabricated items beyond bottled water that would make its claim to the “Just” label appear justified.
“Moreover, examining the nature of the food products it now claimed to be selling – namely, olive oil and snack foods – along with their labeling and the manner in which [Smith’s company] has sold them, reveals that [Smith’s company] rushed to make ‘token use’ of Just in connection with these goods – a technique the law forbids as a means of securing prior rights in a trademark. As but one example, [Smith’s company’s] ‘use’ of Just on olive oil turns out to be little more than slapping a sticker on to a third party’s olive oil product, even though JGI touts this product as an ‘innovation,’” the counterclaim states.
Hertz, the attorney representing Smith’s Just Goods company, said these claims are a distraction meant to “deflect from [Tetrick’s company’s] intentional breach” of the 2014 trademark agreement.
“Hampton Creek (now calling itself Just Inc.) is trying to steal the ‘Just’ trademark and take advantage of Jaden’s fame and his team’s hard work,” Hertz further claimed. “Just Goods will not stand for it.”