While most fast fashion copying tends to result in very few – if any – legal ramifications in the U.S. (more about that here), as of this week, Zara is on the receiving end of a lawsuit from Haute Hippie after allegedly copying one of the brand’s copyright-protected prints. According to Haute Hippie’s suit, which was filed in federal court in New York on Monday, Zara “intentionally copied [Haute Hippie’s] Royal Paisley [print] … without license or authority from [Haute Hippie].”
Haute Hippie – which was founded in 2008 and stocks at Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman, among other retailers – specifically alleges that Zara made use of its print for “a garment referenced as ‘Shiny Silk Jacquard Kimono’” and “sold on [Zara’s] website.” As of Tuesday, the kimono, which was being sold by Zara for $169, was removed from the Spanish fast fashion giant’s e-commerce site.
According to Haute Hippie's complaint, prior to Zara making use of its original pattern, Haute Hippie “widely disseminated fabric and products bearing the Royal Paisley [print] to numerous parties in the fashion and apparel trade,” suggesting that it is far from merely a coincidence that Zara used a “substantially similar” print.
Haute Hippie also claims, that the defendants – whether it be Zara or one of the as-of-now unnamed garment manufacturers - “had access to the Royal Paisley [print], including, without limitation, through their (a) access to [Haute Hippie’s] showroom and/or design library; (b) access to copies of Royal Paisley illegally distributed by third-party vendors, including without limitation international and/or overseas converters and printing mills; (c) access to [Haute Hippie’s] strike-offs and samples, and/or (d) access to garments in the marketplace manufactured with lawfully printed fabric bearing Royal Paisley.”
Such acts, according to Haute Hippie amount to copyright infringement and “were, and continue to be, willful, intentional and malicious.” Due to its sale of the kimono, Haute Hippie claims that Zara has “obtained profits they would not have otherwise realized” and that such “actions have interfered with [Haute Hippie’s own] sales of its products, have unfairly diverted revenue to [Zara], and have caused [Haute Hippie] monetary damage.”
With that in mind, Haute Hippie has asked the court to award it damages – which will be determined at trial (if the case makes it that far without a settlement) and to order Zara to immediately and permanently cease all use of any infringing patterns.
As Jenny J. Rim, VP General Counsel & Business Development for Halston, which owns manages Haute Hippie, told TFL on Tuesday: “There have been several copyright infringement cases against Zara over the years, brought by reputable artists, designers and design houses. It’s alarming that Zara can still operate this way in the US while other brands who play by the rules are failing and falling into bankruptcy every day.”
She further noted, “We reached out to Zara and had no substantive response back. So, it’s unfortunate but we really have no other choice than to assert our rights in a court of law.”
Zara did not respond to a request for comment.
Interestingly, Zara’s copycat garment got its fair share of press attention this summer. The kimono bearing Haute Hippie’s copyright-protected print was slated to be a “hot seller” for Zara, according to InStyle, which included the kimono on its August 2017 list of “Zara Items Are Guaranteed to Sell Out This Fall.” Fashion site, WhoWhatWear, featured in kimono in an array of articles this summer, labelling it as one of the “Fall Must-Haves L.A. Girls Love” and also featuring it in an article, entitled, “3 Items a Celebrity Stylist Is Buying From Zara This Fall.” Still yet, Elle added it to its roundup of “Pajama Robe Coats That Make Lazy Look Luxurious.”
* The case is HAUTE HIPPIE HOUSE, LLC, v. ZARA USA, INC., and DOES 1 through 10, 1:17-cv-07706-VSB (SDNY).