THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE - Here is a good one: Forever 21 has filed suit against a fellow Los Angeles-based apparel company for allegedly copying. In a wholly ironic lawsuit, which was filed this past week in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, a federal court in Los Angeles, Forever 21, one of the most notorious fashion copycats, has accused Defendant Shir E. Benafshe and other “unscrupulous individuals and entities” of selling fake Forever 21-branded garments in an effort “to take a free ride on the goodwill, reputation, and fame [that Forever 21] has spent considerable effort, time, and expense to build up in its products and trademarks.”
Specifically, Forever 21 alleges in its complaint that the defendants – by way of their Los Angeles-based store, which is called “Hi Fashion $5.99 & Up” – are liable for “exporting, importing, advertising, promoting, selling, and distributing unauthorized goods bearing FOREVER 21 Marks.” Yes, apparently people actually sell (and people actually buy) counterfeit Forever 21 clothes.
As the holder of the “Forever 21” trademark, the fast fashion giant has a duty to monitor and act on unauthorized uses of its marks by third parties. We know this. Forever 21 arguably goes a bit far, however, in describing its supposedly glowing reputation for the quality and originality of its offerings. According to the complaint, Forever 21, which has been sued more than fifty times in recent years for allegedly stealing the work of other designers and passing it off as their own, claims:
FOREVER 21 has become well known to consumers through its hard work, innovation and substantial investment in branding […] The FOREVER 21 trademarks have come to signify the valuable reputation and goodwill belonging exclusively to FOREVER 21 […] FOREVER 21 has become such a well-known trade name and trade mark that other businesses in the industry may want to use the term ‘forever’ or ‘twenty-one’ in their names.
But the retailer, which is also known for its truly sub-par quality garments and accessories, does not stop there. Its counsel goes on to state:
To preserve its business reputation, consumer goodwill, and to protect the value of its trademarks, FOREVER 21 maintains strict quality standards for its products. FOREVER 21 purchases the clothing and clothing accessories it offers through its website and stores from various approved vendors who agree to abide by FOREVER 21’s stringent quality control requirements when manufacturing goods for FOREVER 21.
As a result of the defendants’ offering of Forever 21-branded garments without Forever 21’s authorization and “with a purpose to deceive the consuming public and the public at large as to the source, sponsorship and/or affiliation of Defendants, and/or Defendants’ unauthorized goods,” Forever 21 asserted claims of trademark infringement and dilution; False Designation of Origin and Unfair Competition; and Unlawful, Unfair, and Fraudulent Business Practices; and has asked the court to immediately and permanently prevent the defendants from selling the allegedly infringing goods, and to award it upwards of $3 million in damages.
As for the copies currently being offered by Forever 21 at the moment: There are the numerous iterations of Dylanlex necklaces, as recently popularized by Beyonce’s Formation video; the various t-shirts that say “David Bowie” on them (almost certainly in violation of the trademark rights associated with the late musician, since Forever 21 does not often tend to pay to license the IP of others); copies of various dresses currently being offered by everyone’s favorite sustainable/indie label Reformation; various Celine, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, and Alexander Wang bag copies; and our favorite, the garments constructed in a print that is an almost exact replica to Gucci’s hydrangea print. But, yes, Forever 21 is suing another company for copying.