Brian Lichtenberg, the designer behind the designer “parody” tees that were popular several years ago, has been handed a loss in the lawsuit he filed against his fellow designer brother in 2013. Brothers Brian Lichtenberg and Chris Lichtenberg have been involved in a rather bitter legal battle over the "BALLIN PARIS" design that they both stock under their respective brand names, and as of a couple of months ago, the court sided with Chris.
Brian Lichtenberg filed a lawsuit against his brother, Chris Lichtenberg, who is the designer behind Los Angeles-based label Alex & Chloe, in 2013 for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and defamation, among other claims. According to Brian Lichtenberg's complaint, which was filed in a Los Angeles federal court, Brian’s designs often include designer “parodies” depicted on “uniquely designed shirts” (think: “the unique stitching, placement of the labels, and fabric”).
In his complaint, Brian further claims that after an email exchange with Kanye West where the word “Ballin” was used, Brian came up with the idea to create the “BALLIN PARIS” artwork as a purported parody of the “Balmain” trademark, using a similar font. Brian allegedly disclosed this information to Christopher, and because he had “felt sorry for his younger brother’s failing [Alex & Chloe] business,” Christopher had been allowed to sell Brian’s merchandise on consignment as a favor. Christopher is accused of breaching the agreement to pay Brian for the merchandise sold on the Alex & Chloe website.
And brother Brian does not stop there. He also claims that Christopher “was a failed fashion and jewelry designer overshadowed by the financial and creative success of Brian” and, as a result, Chris’ “desperation for money caused him to set out to steal the “BALLIN” parody design from Brian” and to create various “knock-off merchandise and apparel that look and feel identical to that of Brian’s products and designs.”
Lichtenberg goes on to allege that his brother not only copied his original design but 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.” Moreover, Chris allegedly interfered with Brian Lichtenberg’s ongoing business relationships and contracts with at least 10 different companies. In his suit, Lichtenberg seeks injunction relief (which would require Chris and Alex & Chloe to immediately, permanently cease use of Brian’s designs and marks) and punitive damages.
Well, as of late May, the court ruled in favor of Chris Lichtenberg, dismissing the case and all claims against him, after his brother seemingly gave up the fight on the eve of trial. According to the docket for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the presiding judge has ordered that the case be dismissed after the plaintiff (Brian Lichtenberg) failed to appear at a final pre-conference trial and then failed to comply with the court’s order to show cause regarding his missed appearance. And that’s a win for Chris, who has very interestingly removed all “BALLIN” designs from the Alex & Chloe site. But to be fair, that may just be because “parodies” tees are dead. Moving on.
* The case is Brian Lichtenberg, LLC v. Alex & Chloe, Inc. et al., CV13-06837 DDP (C.D. Cal. 2013).