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Cosmetics Giant Strikes Back Against Employee IP Theft

October 27, 2021 by in Hot Issues

By: Danielle Manahan

What would you do if one of your employees stole your intellectual property and your good name and used it to sell their own products? Top beauty brand Mary Kay Inc. recently found itself in exactly this predicament after the former personal assistant to the company’s founder, Mary Kay Ash, published a book detailing company secrets learned during her decades-long tenure and used photographs, the brand name, and other Mary Kay intellectual property without permission.[1]  

In a lengthy complaint filed in a Texas Federal District Court, Mary Kay detailed how the former personal assistant utilized company information and property for her own personal gain. The claims include copyright infringement, false endorsement, misappropriation of confidential information, breach of an NDA, and breach of fiduciary duty, among others. [2]

The copyright infringement was blatant. The ex-employee lifted more than 20 word-for-word passages and quotes from several copyrighted Mary Kay works.[3]

The false endorsement was also manifest.  As a way to increase the sales of the book by this unknown personal assistant, she sought to capitalize on Mary Kay’s name recognition and success by creating a false impression that the book was endorsed by Mary Kay.  This was accomplished by including Mary Kay Ash’s trademarked name in the book title and utilizing the Mary Kay signature pink hue on the book cover.  The book also contained a 15-page section of photographs of Mary Kay corporate events that took place over a period of 50 years.[4]

Mary Kay seeks damages and a court order requiring the former employee to remove all references of Mary Kay’s products, confidential information, and intellectual property from the book.[5]

This case presents important issues regarding the extent to which an ex-employee can be punished for using an employer’s confidential information and intellectual property.

SLG has extensive experience advising clients on the intersection of intellectual property, contract, and employment matters in contexts similar to those presented in the Mary Kay case.  We would be happy to assist your company navigate the possible pitfalls presented by these and other issues. For more information, please contact SLG at

Posted: October 27, 2021

[1]            Complaint at 1-2, Mary Kay Inc. v. Cook, 3:21-cv-02543-C (N.D. Tex. 2021).

[2]              Id. at 15-18.

[3]              See Pl.’s App. A, Mary Kay Inc. v. Cook, 3:21-cv-02543-C (N.D. Tex. 2021).

[4]              Complaint, supra note 1, at 3-4; see 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A).

[5]              Id. at 19-20.

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