BLISS HITS GLO AND ITS CONSULTANTS WITH LAWSUIT
Byline: Vicki M. Young
NEW YORK — Blissworld LLC, the company behind the popular Bliss Spas and the Bliss Out catalog, has filed a lawsuit against Chemistry Inc. and Glo Skincare LLC alleging theft of a trade secret and seeking nearly $1 million in damages.
The trade secret at issue centers on a Blissworld mailing list detailing spa clients and customers, including information such as birth dates and past purchases.
The lawsuit charges that the list was sold without authorization to Glo Skincare and alleges that a former Bliss spa employee had a hand in the sale of that list.
Blissworld also is seeking unspecified punitive damages, an injunction barring further use of the information from the list and an accounting of profits for a period of no less than three years.
The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 20 in New York State Court in Manhattan, also names three individuals as co-defendants: Kelly Kovack, Shayne Hart and Mark Hayden. Court papers weren’t available until now.
Blissworld owns and operates the two Bliss Spas in New York and sells spa and beauty products through its catalogs and in retail outlets like Sephora. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired a 70 percent stake in Blissworld in March 1999.
Glo Skincare is a new minichain of upscale beauty boutiques with locations in secondary markets like Denver and Aspen, Colo. The company launched its beauty catalog in the fourth quarter of 2000.
Blissworld said that Kovack, a former employee who managed the plaintiff’s catalog and mail order business, had access to the list. The lawsuit charges that Kovack “stole the list, by downloading and copying it, without the plaintiff’s knowledge or authorization, and sold it” to Glo Skincare. The lawsuit also charges that Glo Skincare mailed its own beauty product catalogs to those in the database. Blissworld also stated that the “mailing labels generated by the list [bore] plaintiff’s proprietary codes.”
As reported, Kovack left Blissworld around the time of the LVMH acquisition and joined forces with Hart, the former creative director of the EFX beauty boutique and spas chain in Washington, D.C., to form Chemistry, a retail consulting firm. Glo Skincare, which is owned by Hayden, a former vice president of Boston Chicken, is a client of Chemistry. According to industry sources, Kovack left Bliss because she was angry not to have received any of the proceeds from the LVMH acquisition.
Several million Bliss mailings a year are sent out, the company said in the lawsuit. The spa operator also disclosed that through a “substantial expenditure of time, effort and money, the plaintiff has developed and maintained on a computer-accessed database an extensive list of over 60,000 spa clients, customers and others who have requested its catalogs and inquired of its products.”
Hayden said Thursday, “No one was involved in anything malicious. There was a mistake, and we attempted to work this out. The lawsuit is a bunch of grandstanding by Blissworld and concerns personal stuff that preceded me before I entered into the beauty world. No harm was inflicted on anyone. The whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. It is definitely a personal attack between Marcia and Kelly.”
Marcia is Marcia Kilgore, who founded Bliss Spa in July 1996. Kovack worked with Kilgore to create the Bliss Out beauty catalog. According to the lawsuit, her responsibilities included managing the Bliss Out catalog and mail order business.
Kovack could not be reached for comment.
Another individual who believes that the lawsuit is grounded on a personal matter is Hart. “This is personal, malicious and unpleasant. It is a personal matter between Marcia and Kelly. I don’t know where it arises from. I don’t know why I’m included in this matter.”
Hart emphasized, “I have in no way done anything wrong. I will do all that is necessary to protect my reputation. It is particularly disappointing to me because when Bliss was a privately held company, when it was starting out, I supported the company. I will personally pursue a lawsuit for defamation of character and libel should they personally pursue me and Chemistry.”
According to Hart, EFX was the first place outside of Bliss Spa to launch Remede, one of three lines created by Kilgore. The other two lines are Bliss, which is also sold at Neiman Marcus, and Poetic Waxing home waxing products.
Hart also said he was “very disappointed” when he heard about the lawsuit. “I have known Marcia Kilgore for several years. I am disappointed. What traditionally has been a very cordial and sympathetic business relationship has become litigious and malicious. One would think that Blissworld would have enough on its dinner plate not to tie up its time and resources pursuing frivolous litigation,” he said.
The lawsuit charges that Kovack breached the fiduciary duties of trust and loyalty that she owed to Blissworld by “stealing the list and selling it to defendants Glo [Skincare] and Hayden to use in trying to compete with plaintiff.” In another count, she was charged with committing the crime of larceny by “wrongfully” taking or obtaining the list and with computer trespass.
The lawsuit charges that the other co-defendants “knowingly aided and abetted” Kovack’s breach of her fiduciary duty and alleges that they are criminally liable for “having intentionally aided” Kovack.
Blissworld declined comment on its lawsuit.