Fair Go: Christchurch sunglasses brand hit by claim its name is objectionable

Leigh Pickering isn't afraid to create a stir, and the name she's chosen for her sunglasses brand is doing just that.

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What happens you think you’ve got the best name to match the best product, but you’re not allowed to use it. Source: Fair Go

Leigh, from Christchurch, has worked in fashion most of her life and she wanted to import affordable, stylish sunglasses that were more colourful and vibrant than most available in New Zealand.

She also knew they had to be well made, so they were comfortable to wear. And this is where her choice of brand name came in.

A name to reflect the off-beat nature of the glasses, and her appreciation that a good fit is key.

And so the brand name Happy To Sit On Your Face was born. She describes it as "something that makes you laugh because life is hard".

She justifies her name choice by saying, "glasses need to be happy to sit on your face, you can tell straight away, as soon as you put glasses on and move whether they feel uncomfortable or not, they need to be happy to sit on your face, I think it's a very fitting name".

The New Zealand Companies Office, on the other hand, disapproves. Leigh says she got an email back saying the name was offensive, and that was it. No further explanation.

In response to Fair Go's questions, the Companies Office didn't stray too far from their script, reiterating "an internet search on the words clearly shows it's offensive".

Leigh's argument is that it's only offensive in certain contexts, and when applied to an accessory that sits on your face, the name is actually appropriate.

We thought we'd test that out by taking several brand names to the street. There were some objections, but these were reserved for a cafe called Bugger!, and a hairdresser's called The G-Spot.

The name Happy To Sit On Your Face for sunglasses, was unanimously well received, by young and old alike. They thought it was a clever play on words, and amusing.

Leigh says the Companies Office should take the nature of the goods concerned into account.

The name would always appear on sunglasses, or on advertising showing sunglasses and therefore, in her opinion, this takes away the possibility of offence.

However, the Companies Office refuses to budge, saying: "The registrar does not take trading considerations into account when reviewing a name reservation application".

Leigh was told the name would be allowed if she added the word "sunglasses" onto the end of it. But Leigh is making a stand.

She points out that other brands don't have to include a description of what they are, so for example, Royal Gala is allowed to be used as a label on apples, it doesn't have to be Royal Gala Apples.

Leigh says the lack of approval won't hold her back. Even without being able to register the name, she can still use it on branding.

It just means she can't use the name to incorporate her business, so no name or asset protection.

She accepts that but refuses to back down and register another name because she wants to stand up for the principle of the matter.

She believes the Companies Office needs to lighten up, and it seems most people agree.