Web giant threatens Aussie couple

BUSINESS:

An Australian couple is facing the forced closure of their new small business after being targeted for legal action by global online accommodation broker Airbnb.

Brenda and Bruno Follicle (main picture) said they would be ruined financially if a lawsuit by US-based Airbnb succeeded in shutting down their business.

The Brisbane couple operates Hairbnb, a business that allows customers to rent wigs or other hair pieces by visiting one of the company’s stores or ordering online and having their choice delivered to them anywhere in Australia within 24 hours.

“We offer a full range of hairpieces,” Bruno Follicle said. “Anyone in Australia can walk into one of our stores or go to our website and pick out a wig for their head, or a moustache, beard, or goatee.

“We even offer hairpieces for men’s chests and male or female genital wigs known as merkins.”

The Follicles said the lawsuit launched by Airbnb had caught them by surprise and they couldn’t understand why the name of their firm was a problem.

“It took us a long time to decide on a company name,” Bruno Follicle said.

“After we struck on the idea for the business we thought long and hard about a suitable and novel business name that reflected who we are and what the business is about.

“But try as we might we just couldn’t come up with one. Then Brenda woke up one morning and told me she had dreamed about the name Hairbnb.

“The ‘bnb’ refers to beards and bushes but of course our product range is much wider that that. We thought it was rather catchy seeing we couldn’t think of a name that incorporated a reference to our own.

“We looked at Hairfnf, as in follicles and fannies, but it didn’t quite have the same marketing cut-through.”

Brenda Follicle said the documentation from Airbnb’s lawyers said the couple must stop trading immediately or change its company name to avoid confusion with Airbnb.

“But the services we offer are nothing like Airbnb’s,” she said, “except on occasions in our stores we secretly videotape people trying on merkins and later upload them to porn websites.”