While the lawsuit that footwear brand Aquazzura filed against Iavnka Trump’s brand is still very much underway, we figured we would take a look back at some of the claims of copying, threats of litigation, and actually-filed lawsuits with which the Ivanka Trump brand has been faced in recent years. We determine where each pending lawsuit currently stands, what happened in cases where brands threatened suit (but did not actually file), and how the First Daughter fared in suits that have been removed from the docket.
Derek Lam v. Ivanka Trump – December 2011
One of the first major copycat claims lodged against the Ivanka Trump brand came in late 2011 by way of New York-based designer Derek Lam, whose Ayami wedge sandals Trump allegedly recreated for her own eponymous label. According to reports at the time, one of Lam’s footwear designers stumped across a line-for-line copy of the brand’s sandal by Ivanka Trump on Bloomingdale’s.
This prompted Lam’s then-CEO Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann to enlist legal counsel to send a cease and desist letter to Trump and the brand’s footwear licensee, Marc Fisher, demanding that they cease all production and sales of the lookalike Cadie sandal, which was being sold for $150 by an array of retailers.
In making a (seeming) trade dress infringement claim, Lam's lawyers told WWD at the time that consumers were like to be confused by the near-identical shoes retailing at such different price points. As such, they demanded that Trump not only pull the wedge from store floors, but also produce any information regarding past and future sales of the shoe, including accounting records of all sales, as well as specific information as to where the shoes were manufactured.
Speaking to WWD, Schlottmann said, “We have seen very similar copies before but we have never seen a shoe that perfectly copied, It’s such an investment to make a shoe … we had to protest this.” He added: “I’m sure Ms. Trump doesn’t know her wedge is copy because it’s through a license.”
Fisher, which has been on the receiving end of repeated claims of copying and lawsuits in connection therewith (maybe most famously in connection with the Gucci v. Guess cases – Fisher produces Guess’s footwear), refuted the copying claims. According to a statement from the brand: “The Lam wedge sandals are of a popular design type that has been used by numerous manufacturers for many decades. There is nothing iconic about the appearance of the Lam sandal. The Ivanka Trump sandals prominently display the Ivanka Trump name, and there can be no confusion as to the source of the Ivanka Trump sandals. Therefore, Marc Fisher Footwear, the licensee of the Ivanka Trump brand, strongly denies Lam’s claims.”
Despite many reports stating otherwise, Lam never filed suit over the copied design, likely because Trump pulled the shoe from her e-commerce site and from retailers, and Fisher ceased any further production of the shoe style, as well. There was no word at the time (or since) as to whether Trump/Fisher turned over profits in connection with the shoe in order to avoid litigation.
Mystique Inc. v. Ivanka Trump Marks LLC – November 2012
Roughly a year later, Trump was hit with a copyright infringement suit after allegedly copying two footwear designs from California-based brand Mystique. The brand filed suit, alleging that Trump’s “Pia” and “Pandra” sandals amounted to “substantially identical” copies of two of its copyright-protected sandal designs, its “By the Sea” and “Starry Eyes” styles.
According to Mystique’s complaint, “Defendants’ acts are willful, deliberate and committed with prior notice and knowledge of Plaintiff’s copyrights. At a minimum, Defendants were willfully blind and in reckless disregard of Plaintiff’s copyrights.”
The parties fought it out before Mystique filed to have the case dismissed in May 2013, almost certainly because they managed to settle the case out of court.
EmPOWERED Lifestyle Technologies, LLC v. IT Collection LLC, et al – September 2015 and EmPOWERED Lifestyle Technologies, LLC v. IT Collection LLC, et al – January 2016
Skip forward a few years and Trump was named as a defendant in two separate patent infringement lawsuits in connection with a patent-protected (No. 8,884,583) “accessory or fashion item that charges various electronic devices.” According to the two lawsuits, which were filed by Loni Edwards, the founder of “tech-enabled fashion brand,” emPOWERED, Trump (and the brand’s stockist, Macy’s) infringed the patent by selling the “Ivanka Trump Rio Tech Sleeve with Phone Charger, Ivanka Trump Tech Charger Soho Tote, and Ivanka Trump Tech Charger Turner Shopper.”
Edwards asserted in her complaint that the aforementioned Ivanka Trump products made use of her invention, which consists of “fashion items that discreetly and unassumingly incorporated an additional battery with which to charge a mobile device that would not compromise the aesthetic or functional qualities of the fashion accessory.”
In both instances, the cases were ultimately dismissed – without prejudice – which means that emPOWERED is permitted to refile against Trump. Macy’s is still offering the allegedly infringing designs for sale, as is Zappos, Bloomingdales, and Dillard’s, among others.
Aquazzura Italia SRL v. Trump et al – June 2016
After taking to Instagram to call out Ivanka Trump for copying its most popular footwear styles, Aquazzura filed suit against the Trump brand and its footwear licensee, Marc Fisher, in June 2016. In its suit, the Italian footwear brand alleges that the defendants “mimicked every key element of the trade dress of Aquazzura’s well-known and distinctive” shoes.”
According to Aquazzura, the similarities between its shoes and the Ivanka Trump ones are no coincidence; the defendants, including Trump, who the complaint specifically targets as being "intimately involved" in the design process of her footwear collection, know exactly what they are doing: attempting to profit off of Aquazzura's in-demand shoes.
Aquazzura alleges that the defendants' “use of [its] Wild Thing Trade Dress is intended to mislead consumers into believing that Defendants’ Infringing Shoe and Plaintiff’s Wild Thing Shoe are one and the same, or that [Trump's] Infringing Shoe is made, approved, sponsored or endorsed by Plaintiff, or that the two companies are somehow connected. Defendants’ Infringing Shoe is also created with the specific intent to create post-sale confusion as to the source of Defendants’ footwear, creating an imitation of Plaintiff’s Wild Thing Shoe that cannot be distinguished post-sale.”
In connection with the suit, Aquazzura set forth claims for trade dress infringement, unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices, and is seeking both preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, an accounting of Defendants’ profits flowing from their use of infringing trade dress, damages, attorneys’ fees, and any “other relief as the Court deems just and proper.”
The case is still under way in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a federal court in Manhattan, and a trial date has been set for February 6, 2018 … if the parties do not manage to settle the matter outside of court before then.
MODERN APPEALING CLOTHING v. IVANKA TRUMPS MARKS, LLC ET AL – March 2017
In the most recent lawsuit filed against the First Daughter’s brand, California-based brand Modern Appealing Clothing alleges that Trump’s company has engaged in unfair business practices and conspiracy as a result of the Trump administration’s “favoring” of the brand.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed by San Francisco-based Modern Appealing Clothing in the Superior Court of the State of California, a state court in San Francisco, the plaintiffs take issue with the “unfair advantage that defendant Ivanka Trump Marks has gained from Donald J. Trump being the President of the United States and from Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared, working for the President.”
Modern Appealing Clothing is bringing the case as a class action lawsuit on behalf of itself and all other similarly situated clothing and accessories businesses in California, stating that it “believes that based on news reports that, since the election, sales of defendant Ivanka Trump's women's clothing and accessories have surged several hundred percent compared to last year … because of unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent promotional activities by” Ms. Trump and the Trump administration.
Since the suit was filed in March, Modern Appealing Clothing has moved to drop its suit against Trump’s brand. According to an April 5th court filing by Modern Appealing Clothing, “Shortly after articles appeared in the press about this lawsuit, the White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced that Ivanka Trump had agreed to follow federal ethics rules as they apply to her work at the White House. “Accordingly, and unless Ivanka Trump does not subsequently abide by the White House’s promise that she will follow federal ethics rules, plaintiff MAC’s primary goal in bringing this lawsuit has been achieved.”
The court has since processed Modern Appealing Clothing’s request to dismiss the suit in its entirety, meaning that Trump’s brand is off the hook (for now, at least). Modern Appealing Clothing has vowed to take action of Trump does not abide by ethics rules in connection with her brand, and because the case was dismissed “without prejudice,” the clothing company would be able to file a new suit if it wants to.