Cosmetics giant Mary Kay sues former employee, alleging she co-opted copyright material

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Addison-based cosmetics giant Mary Kay Inc. sued a former employee-turned-author for publishing a new book, alleging she used copyrighted material without permission and falsely left hear that the book was approved by the company.

Jennifer Bickel Cook, 70, worked directly with legendary Mary Kay founder Mary Kay Ash for 25 years, which she details in Pass It On: What I Learned From Mary Kay Ash. His book has received intense scrutiny from the company since its publication on October 5.

The lawsuit, filed Friday but not available to the public until Monday, comes with a long list of allegations against Cook, including copyright infringement, false endorsement and intellectual property misappropriation. He also said Cook violated a nondisclosure agreement and used his connections within the company to convince independent business advisers to promote the book.

“As a result of Cook’s hijacking, consumers are likely to be confused and mistakenly believe that the book is sponsored, endorsed, endorsed by, affiliated, connected or otherwise associated with Mary Kay,” the lawsuit said.

The company is seeking damages and an injunction prohibiting Cook from advertising or selling the book. He also wants to be ordered to contact Internet search engines to remove online references to his book that contain material protected by Mary Kay’s copyright.

Mary Kay Ash, pictured in her bathroom in 1989.(Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News)

Cook and the publisher of his book, Dallas-based Brown Books, said the book was overwhelmingly positive about Ash and his business.

In late September, Brown Books founder Milli Brown said she visited to speak with Mary Kay North American Regional President Nathan Moore about promoting the book. She said she was told he was not available, so she left him a message saying she would like to give him a copy of the book.

She received a letter from the law firm Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann hours later informing her that Cook had legal obligations to the company. He also asked Brown to provide Mary Kay with a copy of the book and to delay its publication until the company can review it for “confidential and proprietary information.”

After filing the complaint, Brown said she was shocked by the company’s reaction.

“I’ve been in the business for a long time and seen some bad business moves, but maybe this is the worst,” Brown said of Mary Kay’s decision to take legal action.

Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann could not be reached for comment.

Ahead of the lawsuit’s publication, Mary Kay spokeswoman Kelly Medley said the company was not concerned with the tone of the book or how it speaks about the company founder.

“The question is whether Ms. Cook violated federal copyright law and her obligations to Mary Kay Inc. in the process of writing and promoting this book, largely to independent beauty consultants. of Mary Kay, ”Medley said.

The lawsuit focuses on several copyrighted works by Mary Kay, including three books and a citation calendar. A list of quotes and sections used in Pass it on which compares Cook’s writing with the copyrighted passages.

According to the record, Cook’s book contains “no more than two or three chapters of original content on Cook’s own experiences and memories.” The rest, he says, is just a summary of Mary Kay’s copyrighted works.

Brown said the book was reviewed by a publishing lawyer before it was published and all citations were attributed correctly.

Jennifer Bickel Cook
Jennifer Bickel Cook(Courtesy of Jennifer Bickel Cook)

The lawsuit accused Cook of making it appear as though Mary Kay endorsed the book, citing the rose-colored pattern on the book’s cover and using Cook’s relationship with Ash in promoting the book.

Mary Kay also claimed that Cook violated her own contracts with the company, as well as the contracts of members of the company’s sales force, who “unwittingly agreed to let her attend sales force events. , causing a situation where members violated the terms and conditions of their agreements with Mary Kay.

When asked about the lawsuit, Cook said she didn’t want to talk about it and instead wanted to focus on the positive message her book had for women.

“I love Mary Kay the business, I love the Mary Kay sales force, and of course I loved Mary Kay Ash because she has been a mentor and a big influence in my life,” said she declared.

Jennifer Bickel Cook's Pass It On book is already out of print but could soon be part of a legal fight with Mary Kay Inc.


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