JPT, the owner of Bernardo sandals, is taking Balenciaga to court for patent infringement suit. According to the American sandal brand’s complaint, which was filed in June in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, “Balenciaga has copied the innovative designs of the Bernardo brand and engaged inproduction and distribution of infringing products through retail and online sales outlets. Rather than undertaking its own independent development, Balenciaga copied Bernardo’s innovative designs.”
Bernardo's parent company alleges that “since 1946, the Bernardo brand has inspired the women’s sandal market with its sophisticated designs. Today Bernardo’s sandal designs are distinctive and well-known in the footwear industry. Bernardo’s patented designs are the result of significant investments in the Bernardo brand, innovative design work and product development.”
The patents at issue? Two design patents (D577,182 and D581,149) - both of which Bernardo has held since 2008 - that cover “the ornamental design for a sandal.” Specifically, the protection extends to Bernardo’s MOJO style, a studded T-strap sandal with circular hardware embellishments that adorn the “T” shape front strap of the sandal, with the largest embellishment being affixed to the center of the "T," and surrounded by decreasing-sized embellishments. The style at is stocked by retailers, including Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, and Zappos, and retailers for just under $200.
Balenciaga’s Arena Stud leather sandal, on the other hand, is a similar T-strap style embellished with the brand's signature stud - the same stud that adorns an array of the house's bags dating back to the mid-2000's. (Note: Balenciaga received federal trade dress protection in the U.S. for its “three-dimensional configuration of a polygonal stud figure that is affixed to the surface of the goods. The figure has a flat top and curved sides, with the sides expanding in width from the top to the bottom of the figure” in January 2016). The Balenciaga sandal, which retails for upwards of $400, is stocked by Bergdorfs Goodman, Barneys, and Net-a-Porter, among other retailers.
Per JPT’s complaint, “As the representative side-by-side comparisons shown below reveal, the Balenciaga Defendants misappropriated JPT’s patented ornamental sandal designs in their studded thong sandal line of products with hardware embellishments that adorn the ‘T’ shape front of the sandal […] Balenciaga Defendants were actually aware of the JPT Patents and willfully committed acts of infringement.”
As a result, JPT is asking the court grant a permanent injunction against the Balenciaga Defendants’ continued infringement, damages in connection with the alleged infringement, and a jury trial.
UPDATE (3/1/2017): Not only is this case still alive and well, it was just transferred - per Balenciaga's request - from federal court in Texas to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a federal court in Manhattan.
* The case is JPT Group, LLC Plaintiff, v. Balenciaga, Balenciaga America, Inc., 1:17-cv-01322 (SDNY).