Fashion Law in 2017: 10 of the Year's Top International Lawsuits and Legal Developments

With so many significant lawsuits that were filed and legal developments that took place this year outside of the U.S. (Note: We covered American lawsuits at length here), these international occurrences have earned their own list for 2017. From Christian Louboutin's efforts to claim a monopoly over the red sole across the globe and Conde Nast’s parent company suffering a significant setback over its rights in the word “Vogue” to Dubai working overtime to cut down on fakes in furtherance of its play for fashion capital status and Gucci being the latest brand to come under the microscope of the Italian tax authority for allegedly failing to pay over a billion dollars in taxes, here is a look at some of the biggest international lawsuits and legal developments of 2017 …

1. The French "Photoshop Law" is in Effect ... Now What? Retouched imagery from a number of the fashion industry's leading brands - those based in the world's fashion capital - will look a bit different from now on. Following from a bill that was first introduced eight years ago in France, fashion photos must - as of Sunday - bear a notification if they have been digitally altered to make a model's silhouette "narrower or wider." –– And speaking of model-related laws, Israeli Lawmakers are Pushing for Stricter Penalties for Fashion Entities that Flout its Model Health Law

2. After Abercrombie, EU Court Rules on Ban on Headscarves in the Workplace. Roughly two years after the Supreme Court’s decision that Abercrombie & Fitch wrongfully discriminated against a Muslim woman for denying her a job because she wore a headscarf and that did not fall within its “Look Policy,” the expression of one’s cultural identity in the workplace remains a hot topic. The highly-watched case centered on whether Samantha Elauf, then aged 17, was required to ask for a religious accommodation in order for the company to be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

3. Vogue Loses Trademark Battle, Court Says "Vogue" is a Descriptive Term. Vogue has lost a trademark fight to prevent a similarly named lifestyle brand from trading on its famed reputation. The Bombay High Court recently dismissed a trademark infringement lawsuit that Vogue’s parent company, Advance Magazine Publishers, filed against Just Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd. – an Indian brand that owns the watch, jewelry, and fragrance licenses to an array of fashion brands, such as Calvin Klein, Diesel, DKNY, and Paco Rabbane, in India. Advance argued that Just Lifestyle’s use of the name "JUST IN VOGUE" in connection with retail stores and sales services is in blatant violation of its Vogue trademarks.

4. Christian Louboutin Continues its Global Quest for Control. From a win before the High Court in India just this past week to positive progress in its fight against fellow footwear brand Van Haren to a final loss before the Federal Supreme Court in Switzerland, Louboutin was handed mixed results this year in its efforts to monopolize the red sole. 

5. The European Union's Top Court Sides with Coty, Says "Ok" to Online Sales Ban. “A supplier of luxury goods can prohibit its authorized distributors from selling those goods on a third-party internet platform such as Amazon,” the European Court of Justice held in a landmark ruling this month. “Such a prohibition is appropriate and does not, in principle, go beyond what is necessary to preserve the luxury image of the goods.” 

6. Trump Authorizes Investigation of Intellectual Property "Theft" by the Chinese. U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum in August authorizing an investigation into China's alleged “theft” of American intellectual property. According to the memo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is being tasked with determining whether or not to investigate any potential trade practices by China “that force U.S. companies operating in China to turn over intellectual property." 

7. Gucci Probed by Italian Authorities Over a Reported $1.5 Billion in Unpaid Taxes. Gucci is being probed as part of an investigation by Milan financial authorities as a result of suspected tax evasion. Italian tax police visited the Milan and Florence offices of the fashion company brand in connection with Gucci potentially paying “taxes on profits generated by sales in Italy in another country with a more favorable tax regime.” The company is said to have boasted 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in unpaid taxes beginning in 2010.

8. Luxury Brands Amp Up Fight Against Fakes and Gray Market Goods in India. While India is a fast growing market for high-end luxury brands, it is also a paradise for creators and consumers of infringing goods. In a study conducted in 2014 by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India and KPMG, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory services firm, the growing prevalence of counterfeit and grey market goods in the Indian market are serious impediments to the growth of the industry.

9. Dubai Authorities Seize $72 Million in Counterfeits in Play for Fashion Capital Status. Dubai is indisputably the luxury goods center of the Middle East. The burgeoning market –  which boasts upscale malls and its own version of Fashion Week – is not without its setbacks, namely, a plentiful supply of counterfeit goods. In 2017, alone, more than Dh280 million ($72.2 million) in counterfeit goods were taken off the streets of Dubai as authorities continue in their attempts to tackle a global trade that damages legitimate businesses and fuels organized crime and terrorism.

10. European Union Aims to Cut Down on Fakes with New “Watch List” Initiative. The European Commission will initiate efforts to identify the countries and online marketplaces that serve as the most significant producers and havens for counterfeit and otherwise infringing goods in its fight against the multi-billion euro counterfeit trade. According to the European Commission, its “Watch List” efforts are being put forth in an attempt to cut down on the roughly €85 billion worth of counterfeit goods that enter into the European Union each year.