From being named in a strongly-worded lawsuit alleging gender discrimination and another citing transgender discrimination to infringement suits involving adidas – twice, and by Gucci over its use of stripes, Forever 21, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday, has landed on the receiving end of no small number of legal battles, most of them stemming from its penchant for taking runway looks (and others’ trademarks) and selling them for cheap. Here is a look at a few of the noteworthy lawsuits involving the early fast fashion retailer …
SEPTEMBER 2019: Ariana Grande v. Forever 21 – Ariana Grande is suing Forever 21 for $10 million. According to the complaint filed by counsel for Grande in a federal court in California on Monday, after a potential deal between the pop star and the fast fashion brand – which is reportedly on-the-brink of bankruptcy – fell through because of Forever 21’s “unwillingness to pay the fair market value for a celebrity of Ms. Grande’s stature,” the ailing fast fashion retailer enacted a backup plan: it “stole her name, likeness, and other intellectual property to promote their brands for free.”
JULY 2017: Mara Hoffman, Inc. v. Forever 21 – Designer Mara Hoffman filed suit against Forever 21 – for a second time – for allegedly copying one of her original prints. According to Hoffman’s complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court the Southern District of New York, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion giant sold swimwear that infringed upon Hoffman's copyright-protected "Leaf" fabric print.
JUNE 2017: Danny Clinch v. Forever 21 – Forever 21, along with Urban Outfitters, was slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit by a photographer who claimed that the retailers were selling t-shirts bearing photos he took of late rapper Tupac Shakur. According to photographer Danny Clinch’s suit, the retailers made use of photos that he shot for Rolling Stone magazine in 1993 and 1996, without permission do to so.
JUNE 2017: Forever 21 v. Gucci – In a declaratory judgment action that Forever 21 filed against Gucci in 2017, Forever 21 asked a federal court in California to declare that its garments are not infringing Gucci’s striped marks, and as a result, Gucci does not have a case for trademark infringement. Forever 21 said that it was prompted to file suit after receiving multiple cease and desist letters from the Italian design house.
In addition to seeking a declaration from the court on infringement grounds, Forever 21's lawsuit also called for the Gucci trademark registrations at issue (at least nine different trademark registrations) to be cancelled and any pending applications for related marks to be terminated. Forever 21 alleged that "many clothing and accessory items adorned with decorative stripes colored blue-red-blue or green-red-green are sold by countless third parties ... The colors red, blue, and green, and stripe designs, are among the most favorite, popular and widely used colors and design features on clothing."
APRIL 2017: Puma v. Forever 21 – On the heels of reports that Forever 21 was offering lookalike versions of footwear from Rihanna’s Fenty line for Puma, the German sportswear giant slapped the copycat retailer with a design patent, trade dress, and copyright infringement lawsuit. According to Puma’s suit, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion brand has copied three of the most prominent footwear designs from Rihanna’s collection for Puma in attempts to “trade on the substantial goodwill of Puma, Rihanna, and the Fenty shoes.”
Puma alleged in its suit that in light of the “immense popularity and acclaim” of its Rihanna line of footwear, Forever 21 – a notorious copycat – copied its designs, namely, the Creeper, Fur Slide and Bow Slide styles. In connection with the aforementioned designs, Puma asserted claims of trade dress and copyright infringement. Additionally, the sportswear giant claimed that Forever 21’s copies of the Creeper give rise to a design patent infringement claim, as well, in connection with U.S. Patent No. D774,288.
MARCH 2017: Forever 21 v. adidas – On the heels of Adidas filing (and subsequently settling) a trademark infringement suit against Forever 21 in 2015, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion retailer had filed its own suit against the German sportswear giant. In its complaint, the retailer alleged that it received “a letter dated February 24, 2017, [in which] Adidas’s counsel … threatened to sue Forever 21 over its use of stripes on six items of clothing.”
According to Forever 21’s complaint, it “has fallen victim to Adidas’s threats [of trademark infringement-related litigation] on more than one occasion. Since 2006, Adidas has commenced a pattern of complaining about striped apparel sold by Forever 21, and it has steadfastly increased its threats to encompass virtually any item of clothing with decorative stripes.”
MARCH 2017: Vanessa Boy v. Forever 21 – Just as the barrage of photographer vs. brand/celebrity lawsuits was starting to find its footing, Forever 21 was sued for copyright infringement for posting a photo to its Instagram account. According to photographer Vanessa Boy’s complaint, Boy posted an original photo of blogger wearing an array of Forever 21 garments to Instagram on or about September 12, 2016. Shortly thereafter, the fast fashion giant (and notorious copycat) “contacted [Boy] seeking a license to repost that photograph on its social media,” and Boy “agreed on the condition that it be simply a strict repost, that she be tagged and credited as the photographer.”
Boy, a professional photographer based in Orland, Florida, alleged that Forever 21 went on to use the photo in violation of their agreement, “modifying the photograph, failing to either tag or give credit to Plaintiff, and then using the modified photograph on Instagram and its website as a click-through advertisement.”
SEPTEMBER 2015: H&M v. Forever 21 – In something of an unusual case, H&M sued Forever 21 for copying. The Swedish fast fashion giant filed suit against the Los Angeles-based fast fashion giant for copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition, asserting that Forever 21 copied its canvas “Beach Please” tote bag.
AUGUST 2015: Adidas v. Forever 21 – Adidas named fast fashion giant Forever 21 in a lawsuit for allegedly infringing its three-stripe trademark. According to the German sportswear giant's lawsuit, Forever 21 "intentionally adopted and used counterfeit and/or confusingly similar imitations of the Three-Stripe Mark knowing that they would mislead and deceive consumers into believing that the apparel was produced, authorized, or licensed by adidas, or that the apparel originated from adidas.
The case settled in November 2015.
JANUARY 2015: Adobe v. Forever 21 – Not exactly a lawsuit that centered on copying clothing, Forever 21 was sued by Adobe, Autodesk and Corel over its alleged use of pirated software, including Photoshop. In the lawsuit, Adobe and co. claimed that they found 63 instances of copyright infringement for software such as Photoshop, Acrobat and Illustrator and Autodesk and Corel found instances of pirated copies of Autodesk, 3D design software Autodesk and zip utility tool WinZip. Adobe alleged that Los Angeles-based Forever 21 illegally reproducing copies of Photoshop and other programs, violating the companies’ copyrights, and “continued their infringing activities even after being contacted" by Adobe about the alleged piracy.