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Fashion Photographer Stomps out Infringement

By Toni Guarino [October 10th, 2010] 

Skechers Ad

Fashion photographer Richard Reinsdorf calls for Skechers to Shape Up!

Reinsdorf, who has been described as a “Master of Architectural Fashion,” filed a complaint against Skechers, U.S.A., Inc., on September 27, 2010, in California, on three counts: (1) Copyright Infringement, (2) Breach of Contract, and (3) Statutory Unfair Competition.

According to the Trial Pleadings, “Reinsdorf believes he is entitled to no less than $250 million dollars arising from Skechers intentional, willful, wanton, and malicious infringement of his copyrights.”

Reinsdorf alleges that Skechers engaged his services and photographs under a “very limited license.”  The license was to be for no more than six months, and territorially limited to North America.  Also, the license confined the use of the photographs to certain media including “point of sale displays, magazines, and certain outdoor advertisements.”

Skechers first hired Reinsdorf on November 16, 2006, to conduct a photo shoot for the brand.  Reinsdorf granted Skechers a six-month license to use the resulting photographs for “Point of Sale” advertisements, and on the Web and in lookbooks.  The complaint repeatedly notes that “Reinsdorf’s services were not requested as a “work for hire” nor did Skechers offer to buy out Reinsdorf’s rights.”  Subsequent photo shoots were held in September 2007, April 2008*, and May 2009, where Reinsdorf entitled Skechers to use his photographs in the agreed upon manner.  The terms remained the same, but added that the images were permissible for use in “Out of Home” (Outdoor Ads) displays, print and collateral (once again, for a period of only six months).

However, counsel for Reinsdof provided that many, if not all of the images were still being used as recently as June and July 2010.   Despite the terms of the contract, Reinsdorf found out that Skechers used the images in foreign territories such as “Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, France, Japan, Panama, Philippines, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.”

Reinsdorf accuses Skechers of “serial theft” and infringement of his rights.  He supports this accusation by claiming that Skechers used the photos for several years, included the photos in ads overseas, and use the images on its packaging and other unauthorized media.  Therefore, Reinsdorf states that Skechers “completely and utterly ignored the terms of the license.”

Stylelist quoted an attorney for Skechers (Daniel Petrocelli) in response to the allegations:  “Absurd is the best way to describe Richard Reinsdorf’s lawsuit. Skechers paid for the pictures in full and had express permission to use them. Reinsdorf is not entitled to a nickel more. Skechers has a deep and long tradition of protecting and respecting intellectual property rights and will not allow frivolous, abusive cases like this to stand.”

According to Petrocelli, on October 2, 2008, Reinsdorf “posed a brunette model and suggested that she pout her lips while wearing large brown sunglasses. The expression on the model invoked by Reinsdorf was similar to capturing lightning in a bottle. Skechers was more than pleased with the photo. It was ecstatic.”  And the image apparently became the “iconic brand image” for the company.

For more, see Reinsdorf v. Skechers U.S.A., Inc.

2010 WL 3839329 (C.D.Cal.) (Trial Pleading)

For docket see 2:10cv07181

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