Are the California Kardashians guilty of theft?

The California reality stars with names and product lines that all begin with a “K” are being sued over their Khroma makeup line. The Kardashians and Khroma’s license holder Boldface Licensing + Branding are charged with copyright infringement for using the Khroma name, a single letter away from the name of another beauty company.

The $10 million intellectual property lawsuit filed by the owner of the Kroma cosmetics company, established nine years ago, against the wealthy and well-known Kardashian sisters. The complaint alleges the Kardashians took illegal liberties by adding an “h” to the original, copyright-protected Kroma name.

A separate, legal player is another makeup company called Chroma. Owners of the Chroma cosmetics firm also felt the Kardashians were overstepping copyright boundaries last October. A lawsuit was threatened unless the Khroma name was changed.

Officially, the name of the Kardashian makeup line is Khroma Beauty by Kourtney, Kim and Khloé. Boldface Licensing + Branding claims it secured legal rights for the name through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Cosmetics are not the only Kardashian product to be questioned. Critics have noticed similarities between the “KK” used for Kim Kardashian’s perfume and a jewelry design.

Kim also was accused of swiping a Fendi dress design in 2009 for the sisters’ clothing line, which the reality star admitted inspired her. The sisters also have been charged with handbag design rip-offs causing one designer to send a cease-and-desist letter to Kardashian clothing distributor, Sears.

The difference between an inspired creation and an outright knock off can be difficult to prove in court. Copyright laws ride a fine line between creative encouragement and creator protection.

If Kroma can sue the Kardashian’s Khroma, why aren’t Kroma and Chroma also in an intellectual property battle? The pronunciation for all three company names is the same. Are name differences involving two letters of the alphabet more acceptable than the addition of one letter?

Source: shine.yahoo.com, “Kardashian Makeup Line Slapped with $10 Million Copyright Infringement Lawsuit,” Jessica Ferri, Jan. 14, 2013