Updated 8th December, 2020
If you’ve been lucky enough to be stuck on makeup TikTok over the past few days, then chances are you’ve come across the viral video by Sahi Cosmetics founder Shelly Sahi accusing Ulta Beauty of stealing the packaging design from one of her signature lip products.
In the TikTok, Sahi claims she had sent Ulta her brand’s lip treatment balm— which comes housed in a diamond-shaped pot— multiple times since its 2018 launch and that the cosmetics giant refused to stock her product. Over the weekend, the founder discovered that Ulta was selling a lip product in nearly identical packaging under their ‘Sweet & Shimmer’ holiday range.
“Guys, I think Ulta copied my product and this is the second time a big business has copied from me and my business,” she starts. The first time Sahi claimed a brand copied her was back in August when she accused Beauty Blender of ripping off her primer. Though Beauty Blender debunked these claims, Sahi’s allegations went viral, providing a lot of publicity for her brand.
“I saw it online when I was searching for my own product— their Google ad popped up which means they’re running ads against my product,” she continues. “You know I came out with the ‘Diamond Treatment Lip Balm’ in 2018, Ulta has trademarked the name of the cosmetic line under their company.”
After detailing her communications with Ulta regarding stocking her product, Sahi shows herself purchasing the lip balm at the retailer. “What the f*ck?! It’s the same thing on the inside,” she says holding both components up to the camera. “Look, they took the mirror out. Look at them, how cheap, oh my god.”
She finishes by saying she does not endorse this product and asks consumers to purchase the “original” at her website.
Sahi’s TikTok instantly went viral, with users flooding the comment section telling her to take legal action against Ulta Beauty. However, a day later, beauty enthusiasts across the internet believe they’ve found some cracks in Sahi’s story.
Many Tiktok users addressed Sahi’s claims in their own videos, providing receipts that allegedly prove the packaging was not a Sahi Cosmetics original idea.
One user notes that the ‘Sweet & Shimmer’ range has been a holiday release since around 2016. The trademark documentation posted in multiple videos, including Sahi’s TikTok videos show that Ulta filed for the trademark in 2015— albeit just for the ‘Sweet & Shimmer’ name, not the specific packaging.
It was also shared that Lancôme released a lip product in a very similar diamond-shaped pot back in 2007.
Critics of Sahi’s theory have also taken to the subreddit BeautyGuruChatter, providing multiple receipts backing up these findings.
One of the most common criticisms is that Sahi Cosmetics appears to be (though not confirmed) a private-labeled brand, meaning her components would be purchased from a third-party seller such as Alibaba. In this instance, a brand does not have ownership rights over a particular design unless they drafted, manufactured, and copyrighted the design themselves. Purchasing packaging from a third-party manufacturer is also fairly common for large corporations.
Additionally, it can be challenging to make a case for copyright when a design is considered common.
Many also feel Sahi’s history with Beauty Blender delegitimises her claims, calling her allegations against the brand’s primer “a reach.”
Her accusations that Ulta is “running ads against” the Sahi Cosmetics’ lip product have also come under fire, with many users noting that Ulta is likely not targeting her brand specifically, but instead running ads against keywords in that category to ensure their products appear first.
Though Ulta Beauty has not formally responded at the time of publication, multiple Ulta employees have claimed their store was asked to remove the ‘Sweet & Shimmer’ diamond lip balm off retail floors effective Saturday.
Whether Sahi’s claims are based in truth or not, large corporations ripping off indie brands is, unfortunately, not an uncommon issue in the beauty world and something that deserves to be addressed.