Color me bad: Colorist accused of swiping trade secret from ritzy salon

July 19, 2013

Reyna Garcia

Reyna Garcia, the alleged “Color Formula Cards” thief

Oooh, girl.

A New York beauty salon that claims to have treated the tresses of Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Aniston filed a lawsuit last week, alleging that one of its former stylists made off with top-secret information.

The salon, John Sahag Ltd., alleges that the stylist took the “Color Formula Cards” for at least some of the 200 to 400 clients she had with her when she went to work for a rival beauty parlor.

The cards list the customer’s preferences and the exact color formula needed to meet the customer’s needs. Having those cards saves a stylist from needing to tinker with hair colors to find the right one.

In its filing, the salon observes that “haircuts come and go,” but it’s the color “that enhances a woman’s beauty.”

In a case like this, the color formulas used on specific John Sahag clients could be considered a trade secret. A trade secret is any information that is valuable to a business, derives some of its value from not being widely known and is subject to reasonable efforts to keep it secret.

If it is accepted that customers would return to John Sahag because the colorists there — and only the colorists there, not colorists anywhere else — knew exactly what they wanted, then it is clear that the salon derived value from these Color Formula Cards. It also sounds like the information was developed only after working with individual clients and so is not something that could be widely known.

What is not clear to me is whether John Sahag made reasonable efforts to keep the information secret. The salon only knew the information was gone after former clients told colorists there they were going someplace else. I’d be curious to know how easy it was for the colorist to (allegedly) swipe the Color Formula Cards.

In any event, the judge in this case ordered a temporary injunction that allows the colorist to contact former clients, but not to use any formulas that she took with her from John Sahag.