SNOHOMISH — A federal judge in Florida ruled a copycat business owes over $800,000 after infringing upon the trademark of a sassy Snohomish candle company 120 times.
In July, a federal judge declared a summary judgement in the case between the Malicious Women Co. and competitor Rynn Carter Cox, the owner of the Malicious Mermaid candle company.
The Snohomish business is set to receive $814,053.12, according to terms of the judgment handed down this summer in U.S. District Court in Florida.
But founder Lacie Marsh-Carroll doesn’t expect to receive a penny of that money.
“She’s filing for bankruptcy … it cost me so much money to fight her,” Marsh-Carroll said. “She used every delay tactic in the book.”
Founded by Marsh-Carroll in 2017, Malicious Women gained some notoriety for its soy-based candles with profane and cheeky labels describing the “scent,” such as:
“Not Today, Mansplainer, Infused With the Well Earned Confidence of Free Thinking Women Everywhere,” and, “Beards, Ink, & Muscles, Infused With Spontaneous Panty Dropping.”
In late 2020, Malicious Women filed the complaint in federal court in Florida, identifying 120 instances of the Florida company infringing on its trademark. The lawsuit came a year after a lawyer for Marsh-Carroll sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company and didn’t get a response, according to the complaint.
Shortly after Marsh-Carroll sent the letter, the defendant changed the domain name of the website from “The Malicious Mermaid,” to “The Snarky Mermaid,” but did not change her products, according to court documents.
Ninety percent of the Malicious Mermaid’s candles had exactly the same phrases as Malicious Women’s candles, and the other 10% were almost identical, according to a report signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Irick.
The judge found there was “no genuine dispute” that Marsh-Carroll owned the trademark, that the defendant engaged in unauthorized use of the marks and that Malicious Mermaid’s candles likely created confusion between the two brands.
On Etsy, the Florida company would tag Marsh-Carroll’s name and profile on all of the Malicious Mermaid’s listings to confuse customers and make them believe the candles came from the Malicious Women Co., according to court documents.
In September 2021, Cox’s lawyers withdrew, citing her inability to pay. So she represented herself in the case. According to court documents, Cox agreed to all of the terms of a settlement in the case, except for a single term, the specifics of which Marsh-Carroll did not share because she could not comment on the mediation.
The case then wore on for almost two more years.
Marsh-Carroll filed documents in support of its damages claim, court documents said. The defendant didn’t file anything. In June, the court conducted an evidentiary hearing with Marsh-Carroll and her lawyers in attendance. The defendant didn’t show.
Little information was available on the company’s owner, who went by “Suzy.” Cox went by the alias “Suzanne Dennis,” Marsh-Carroll said.
Its website has a description of the company’s purported origin:
“I was suddenly a single mother with two young girls. In an attempt to not go into a deep depression, I started making candles. Eventually, I was able to fulfill my destiny and move to the beach to be a mermaid for the rest of my life.”
It’s a similar backstory to Marsh-Carroll, who started making candles as a way to work through grief after the suicide of her best friend. Marsh-Carroll melted wax in a Crock-Pot in her kitchen and put funny labels on vintage jars to give to her friends.
“I feel vindicated that the judge ruled in our favor, it was a blatant plagiarism case that took so long,” Marsh-Carroll said Monday. “What (the case) does is provide proof and warning to other candle companies that want to copy me to not steal other people’s ideas.”