High fashion luxury labels have found themselves to be stuck somewhere in between our youth culture’s fashion craze: streetwear parodies of well-known luxury labels, and a trademark infringement lawsuit. David Lipke, in his article, “Designer Parodies Test Legal Boundaries in Streetwear” from Women’s Wear Daily, demonstrates how various streetwear designers have released clothing featuring designs bearing a strong resemblance to luxury logos, but in a humorous manner. Despite the initial appeal to this trend being founded by the underlying admiration of high fashion’s luxury brands, the upshot for these streetwear designers’ satisfying streetmarket consumers could be unpleasant legal ramifications.
For years, Polo Ralph Lauren and the U.S. Polo Association have been hooking mallets over the use of their polo player trademarks.
In 1984, the long battle between the U.S. Polo Association and Polo Ralph Lauren began. At the time, a Manhattan federal court granted the USPA permission to use the “double horseman” logo on their merchandise, as long as it would not cause consumer confusion. The USPA’s double jockey logo bears a marked resemblance to Ralph Lauren’s mounted polo player.
Levi Strauss in Trademark Infringement dispute over “V” pocket design.
Levi Strauss & Co. has always been an ardent defender of its pocket’s double arched stitch the, “Arcuate”, commonly known as the “V”. According to Lynn Downey’s book, Levi Strauss & Co. (2007), during World War I, the Arcuate design was deemed by the US Government to be decorative only, and prohibited from being stitched into the pockets because items needed for the war effort, including thread, were being rationed. Rather than lose its trademark, the company had the Arcuate hand-painted onto the pockets. CLICK TO READ MORE…..
Adidas has an issue with World’s “cut-off-w-lines”
So, let’s see. World Industries’ likely stance on this one will be that their sneaker on the left, “Varsity”, is designed with a visually distinct “W” representing World Industries. It’s just, you know, cut-off. What’s that? You think their “cut-off-w-lines” looks exactly like Adidas’ internationally recognized three-stripe trademark that they’ve used since 1952? Hahaha. I mean, really. All you have to do is look at it! World’s “cut-off-w-lines” have arrows on top, and, and, and the little piece there, yeah, the one curving a little bit, no- not that one, that one!…
Burberry Awarded $100 Million in Fight Against Counterfeit Websites
A Manhattan Federal Court recently granted Burberry a $100 million award, ruling that a collusion between Chinese internet counterfeiters infringed upon the brand’s trademark
Gucci sought $120 million in Guess Trademark Infringement lawsuit, and is awarded $4.7 million.
Gucci may have won, but it’s Guess that’s jumping for joy. In the culmination of a three year old legal battle, a U.S. judge gave Gucci a multi-million dollar award, and a permanent injunction against Guess’ use of three of the four challenged designs. So, why no parade of “v” shaped fingers at the House of Gucci?
Dolce & Gabbana (“D&G”), a luxury Italian company, recently filed a trademark infringement suit against Dolce & Banana, a small boutique in Cape Town, South Africa. Mijou Beller, the owner of the boutique that sells jewelry made from shells, beads, and wood, was first contacted by Dolce & Gabbana six years ago. However, Dolce & Gabbana did not have a registered trademark for jewelry at that time. Yet the luxury brand would not stand defeat, or mockery. Instead, D&G filed suit for the boutique to change its name, which has since been changed to “… & Banana.”
Fret no more?
According to WWD, a jury in Memphis, Tennessee awarded Coach Inc. a little over $5 million on Tuesday March 21, 2012. The jury awarded this sum after it found that Frederick Goodfellow, an owner of a flea market, was guilty of infringing upon the brand’s trademarks. Based upon the lawsuit filed back in 2010 in the Western District of Tennessee, Goodfellow rented space to vendors who were selling counterfeit Coach products. Coach responded by suing Goodfellow along with the offending vendors for $2 million per counterfeit mark, the maximum in statutory damages. The jury subsequently found that the defendants infringed upon 21 of Coach’s trademarks and therefore awarded Coach $240,000 per mark infringed. According to WWD, this amounted to $5.04 million.
Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) has had its fair share of sticky lawsuits that involved racism and discrimination as well as a mouthful of criticism and accusations of misguided attempts at ethnic humor. However, it seems like A&F is off the hook this time with the latest incident of a racist descriptor attached to cargo pants that appeared to be sold by A&F.
Earlier this week, Facebook posts, Tweets, blog posts, articles and more flooded the internet with angry assertions about A&F who was selling a pair of “Ni-er Brown” cargo pants. Excuse me? Yes, this was definitely too ridiculous to be true. Fortunately for A&F, the website that was selling these racist pants was in no way affiliated with the American retailer.
Retail lawsuits are no stranger to this blog, but they are certainly no stranger to Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation (HAMC) either. In the past, HAMC were successful in bringing infringement cases against brands such as Zappos, Saks, and Alexander McQueen. However, despite their negative reputation classified by the FBI and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, HAMC are not afraid to protect their name.
In August 2011, Wildfox Couture, LLC, a Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer, and Amazon (along with defendants Nasty Gal, Inc., Gosi Enterprises, LTD., JCL Style, Inc.) were slapped with a lawsuit for selling a t-shirt that had the slogan, “My Boyfriend’s a Hells Angel,” written on the front of the t-shirt and the official trademarked angel wings placed on the back of the t-shirt. HAMC brought the suit based on three claims: trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution of famous mark. According to the complaint, Wildfox was selling the t-shirt as “Hells Angel Hippie Crewneck T” on its website – I know, hippie? – while Amazon and other defendants were identifying the t-shirts as “Hells Angels Tee” on their respective sites.
While the name “Hells Angels” seems generic, the group name is, in fact, iconic and is a source identifier of the motorcycle club. All of their registered marks are collective membership marks that indicate membership to that organization. In addition to their collective membership word mark registration, HAMC own two federal registrations for “HELLS ANGELS” for apparel. Furthermore, HAMC makes it very clear that only Club charters and members may use the mark and no one else is licensed to use it. Ever.
HAMC’s attorney, Fritz Clapp, clarified that these lawsuits are brought “from time to time not just to punish but to educate.” Do you agree? Remember that unlike copyright law which provides for criminal penalties and civil damages, trademark law is almost entirely enforced through private lawsuits so successful plaintiffs can be entitled to a wide range of remedies under federal law. Routinely injunctions are awarded.
I would have to agree that educating companies as well as the general public about knowing the difference between a generic term and a trademark as well as avoiding consumer confusion are vital to federal trademark law. Since Hells Angels is inherently distinctive, I would assume that HAMCS had stronger claims for infringement so it would not be surprising if this case came to a settlement agreement. But even if you asked me sans law school education, this is still a flashback to grade school basics: If it’s not yours, then you can’t use it without permission!