A DALGETY Bay firm has launched an online funding campaign as it prepares to take on cosmetic giants L'Oreal in a dispute over its name.

The Naked Soap Company has been going for six months since starting off in founder Gary Rushforth's kitchen and now employs 12 people from a unit in the Hillend Industrial Estate.

Its future was thrown into doubt last week when they received a legal notification that L'Oreal has challenged their use of the word 'naked' in their name as they claim the word is owned by them.

Gary is determined to fight for the right to keep their name and has also started a petition to go to Scottish cabinet minister for the economy, Keith Brown MSP, urging him to "step up and speak out against the bullying tactics of L'Oreal" against small, local businesses.

"It is our ethics, our personality and it means more to us than money," he told the Press.

"I started this business with £50 in my pocket and it has now been valued at a quarter of a million pounds. We have probably spent about £120,000 of investment in the company and created uniforms and products.

"Everything has the term Naked Soap Company so to replace that would cost the same amount over again. It is an up front cost which we do not have. As an employer, we employ 12 local people at the moment. We would have to lay people off and people would lose their jobs from what L'Oreal are asking."

He continued: "We are going to stand up and fight this. This is our name, our company. We are having to set up a funding page to help with the legal action. They have lawyers that charge £1,000 to send a letter. We don't have that."

Gary said they were shocked when the legal paperwork came through their letterbox.

"We registered the Naked Soap Company with Companies House and there was no opposition to this," he explained. "Then a couple of months down the line, when everything started to get a bit hectic, we thought we needed to protect it.

"We filed a trademark for the phrase Naked Soap Company and you get a period of opposition for two months where any other companies with believes they have a similar nature.

"They would have been notified in early July and then on Tuesday afternoon, a week away from getting it approved and signed off, we got a notification from L'Oreal's legal team that they have filed a direction to oppose it. They are opposing the use of the word naked as they believe they own it.

"It is ridiculous. To be able to own a single word that can be used in various terms is crazy and they are asking us to stop using it.

"They believe it is conflict with them. It is absolutely rubbish.

"We create bath bombs and soap. The only naked range they have is Naked Urban Decay eye shadow palettes."

Since taking the decision to move his hobby into a business earlier in the year, former chef Gary, 28, has been amazed at how it has grown and they were even asked to send pamper packs for models at London Fashion Week earlier this month.

"We make 5,000 bath bombs a week from our unit at Hillend," he added. "We sell online and have a good network of stockists from salons to pharmacies and gift shops and local community reps as well.

"From doing that, we have become the largest producer of handmade bath bombs in Scotland and we are second in the UK only to Lush and that is just because of the support we have had from Fifers."

A spokesperson for L'Oreal said as the matter was subject of ongoing administrative proceedings, they were unable to provide further comment at this time.

Gary may get encouragement from another West Fife firm, D&G Autocare, who became embroiled in a similar row with a global giant over their name in 2012.

When the car repair firm attempted to register their trade mark, they were challenged by the other D&G, Italian designer fashion label Dolce and Gabbana, who objected.

Co-owner George Simpson told the Press that last minute negotiations meant they avoided a costly legal battle, with Dolce and Gabbana dropping their opposition "as long as we don't go into Europe".

TheNaked Soap Company's fundraising page can be found at nakedsoapcompany.uk/donations/naked-soap-company-vs-loreal.