The Fashion Law Exclusive - Here is one lawsuit you REALLY don’t want to miss. H&M is suing Forever 21 for copying! Earlier this summer, Swedish fast fashion giant, H&M, filed suit against Los Angeles-based fast fashion giant, Forever 21, for copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition. In short, H&M is suing Forever 21 for copying its canvas “Beach Please” tote bag.
According to H&M’s lawsuit, which was filed in a New York federal court, one of its in-house designers created the “Beach Please” graphic for use on the brand’s tote bags (we are willing to bet H&M copied this from some other brand). H&M began offering its bags (pictured above left) for sale in the U.S. last year both in its stores and on its website. Per H&M, the bag was “well received by consumers because of its distinctive design” and as a result, it has sold thousands worldwide since its debut in April 2014. H&M also goes on to allege that the bag has acquired "secondary meaning in that H&M is recognized as the original source of the tote bags." Meanwhile, H&M filed to federally register its copyright in the design, which became effective in June 2015 (because H&M values and wants to protect its own intellectual property while exploiting and capitalizing on the IP of others’). A month later, H&M filed suit.
H&M alleges in its complaint that Forever 21 began selling a nearly exact version of the bag (pictured above right) - knowing that H&M was offering its own "Beach Please" bag. AND THIS IS WHERE IT GETS REALLY GOOD … H&M un-ironically alleges the following in its complaint: “Defendant has employed one or more companies in China to manufacture and import the infringing product into the U.S. […] Many of the products sold by Defendant are manufactured in China for the Defendant. The Defendant has also been accused of copyright violations in the past." Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
Oh, and there’s more. H&M alleges that unless the court orders Forever 21 to stop selling the bag, the confusion and/or association that Forever 21 is creating by selling the lookalike bag will cause irreparable injury to H&M and its reputation. Apparently, H&M has a reputation that is: 1) worth protecting and 2) somehow more valuable than Forever 21’s.
All jokes aside, H&M is asking the court to order Forever 21 to immediately and permanently cease manufacturing, marketing and selling its version of the “Beach Please” tote and to pay up all of the profits it has made from its sale of the bag. This case will likely settle out of court before it gets to trial but stay tuned just in case …