The Fashion Law Exclusive - You may recall that brothers Christopher and Brian Lichtenberg have been feuding for sometime now over an array of designs, including the popular BALLIN in Paris "parody" design. The sibling designers, both of whom stock the BALLIN design in the form of t-shirts, sweatshirts, beanies, etc., have been involved in lawsuits against each other since last year, alleging trademark and trade dress infringement, unfair competition and defamation.
Younger brother, Christopher, who is behind Los Angeles-based brand, Alex & Chloe, allegedly filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Brian Richard Lichtenberg, Brian Lichtenberg, LLC, Reda Bouaissa, Los Angeles-based retailer Kitson, and others, alleging that ”Brian Richard Lichtenberg has very falsely accused Alex & Chloe of stealing a design from him, when he and his business partner Reda Bouiassa know full well that this design is owned by Alex & Chloe.” Brian Lichtenberg followed, filing his lawsuit initially in California Superior Court of Los Angeles County in March for an array of claims, including conversion, breach of contract, trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, breach of fiduciary duties, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, among others, and subsequently filing in federal court (the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, that is) on September 17th, alleging common law trademark and trade dress infringement, trademark dilution, violation of the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act, violation of the California Unfair Competition Act, and defamation, libel, and slander, among other claims.
According to Brian Lichtenberg's complaint, ”By the spring of 2012, CWL [Christopher Walter Lichtenberg] was a failed fashion and jewelry designer overshadowed by the financial and creative success of Brian Lichtenberg, his older brother, in the same industry.” Brian claims that he arranged for his brother’s Alex & Chloe website to sell some of his products under a consignment arrangement and for CWL to do some “part-time contractor” work for the Brian Lichtenberg label. Brian Lichtenberg alleges that his brother, CWL, worked on the BALLIN design with him.
Brian asserts that he hand-sketched the BALLIN design in his day planner on Jan. 30, 2013 after he was inspired by a conversation with rapper Kanye West and provided CWL with a sketch of the design. CWL then reportedly took the concept and created an electronic version of the design for Brian and then “proceeded to use such purloined information to enable his company, [Alex & Chloe], to take T-shirts and sweatshirts using the ‘Ballin’ and ‘Ballin Paris’ parody name to the market before [Brian Lichtenberg].” CWL then allegedly began representing that he came up with the original “BALLIN” design. Brian claims his brother also copied his company’s confidential customer list; and contacted the manufacturer responsible for making Brian Lichtenberg products and requested that he manufacture products identical to Brian Lichtenberg’s products. In addition to seeking monetary damages from his brother, Brian asked he court to order Christopher to immediately and permanently cease sales of the design at issue, and the judge has preliminarily ruled in his favor.
In a hearing on Friday, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson ruled on Brian's motion for a preliminary injunction, ordering Christopher to remove from his website any photos of celebrities wearing his brother’s designs “in any manner that would lead others to believe that such persons are wearing” Alex & Chloe products. Additionally, Judge Pregerson held that Christopher must refrain from using his brother’s customer, distributor or manufacturer lists, and to cease all sales for the BALLIN design ... for now. The hearing on Friday was not a total win for Lichtenberg, as this is just a preliminary hearing. In addition, the judge ruled to dismiss Brian's claim of trade dress infringement. More to come on the existing claims, which include trademark infringement and unfair competition and defamation ...