Intellectual Property in Fashion: Case Studies
Nowadays, Intellectual Property in fashion is getting bold!
From Large scale businesses to individual Instagram sellers, everyone wants to protect their unique selling idea, an idea that sets them apart from other businesses. This especially holds in today’s era where sharing music, pictures, and text has become very easy and common.
Now, this is where intellectual property laws come in, as they are a means to protect these ideas and therefore lead to the creation of an environment in which businesses easily find ways to blossom, and Intellectual Property in fashion is no exception!
However, from recent history, we see some of the biggest names in businesses being caught up in intellectual property rights cases. These cases have made the world headlines numerous times and also act as a guideline for other businesses to know what intellectual property rights are. Here are some of the famous high-profile cases where both companies and individuals have filed a lawsuit to protect their intellectual rights.
Intellectual Property in Fashion: Case no. 1: Puma v. Forever 21
With the aforementioned case in mind, the lawsuit that Puma filed against Forever 21 in early April is significant. On the heels of reports that Forever 21 is offering lookalike versions of footwear from Rihanna’s Fenty line for Puma, the German sportswear giant slapped the copycat retailer with a design patent, trade dress, and copyright infringement lawsuit.
According to Puma’s suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion brand has copied three of the most prominent footwear designs from Rihanna’s collection for Puma in attempts to “trade on the substantial goodwill of Puma, Rihanna, and the Fenty shoes.”
Puma set forth claims of design patent, trade dress, and copyright infringement. In connection with the latter, Puma’s counsel applies the test defined in the Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands decision, citing:
“The Fenty Copyrights (1) can be perceived as a two- or three- dimensional works of art separate from the Fenty Shoes and (2) would qualify as protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works—either on their own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression.”
In particular, Puma cites the following as the copyright-protected elements of its footwear: The “ridged vertical tooling and grainy texture encompassing the thick rubber outer sole” for the Creeper; the “wide plush fur strap extending to the base of the sandal” for the Fur Slide; and the “casually knotted fabric bow with pointed endings atop a lined side strap that extends to the base of the sandal” for the Bow Slide.
This is noteworthy as it is one of the first – if not the first – cases to put the Supreme Court’s new separability test to use. It will be interesting – and telling – to see how the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, a court that sees a fair amount of fashion cases, applies it (assuming the case is not dismissed (as Forever 21 recently moved for) and/or the parties do not settle before trial, that is).
Intellectual Property in Fashion: Case no. 2: Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Haute Diggity Dog
Another major news headline was seen fashion house Louis Vuitton Decided to file a lawsuit against a pet product company, Haute Diggity Dog based in Nevada. This case wouldn’t have been such a head-turner had Louis Vuitton not lost their case. It happened so according to ideology that Haute Diggity Dog introduced a line of “parody” products named “Chewy Vuitton”.
The lawsuit accused the company of copyright infringement and also named fashion brands like “Chanel” and “Tiffany and Co” which too, according to Louis Vuitton, we’re guilty of the latter crime.
However, surprisingly enough the US court of appeals gave the verdict that Haute Diggity Dog’s product line was a successful parody and so they had not infringed the Copyrights or Trademarks of Louis Vuitton. The court believed that this product line was differentiated from Louis Vuitton’s products.
Intellectual Property in Fashion: Case no. 3: Adidas America Inc. v. Payless Shoesource Inc.
The famous three stripes have been well defended by Adidas as a registered trademark. In 1994, Adidas sued Payless over these same stripes. Adidas has been using the three three stripes designs since 1952.
Payless confusingly enough started to sell nearly identical athletic shoes but with 2 and 4 parallel stripes. At first, the two companies settled that year but then again in 2001, Payless again started to sell shoes which was the cause of their scuffle. Therefore now in fear that their customers might be tricked into buying the same shoes from their competitors, Adidas decided to demand a jury trial.
This trial lasted for seven years, during which a total of 268 pairs of payless shoes were examined. In the end, Adidas came out victorious and was awarded $305 million, which is roughly $100 million for each strip. Addidas also sued other brands as well over these stripes but finally lost the IPR battle after a European Union for this IPR which found that it wasn’t distinctive.
Intellectual property is at the core of the fashion industry. This industry is required to be protected tactfully for a positive and sustainable existence, but while it’s just recently that the industry has boosted its growth, the laws have yet to take shape.
Consequently, finding a specific answer could be challenging in the fashion industry. Therefore, speaking with an experienced fashion law expert is always advisable. If you are looking for a fashion law expert, you have the opportunity to find one right in your smart device; YES!
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