Kim Kardashian is set to walk away from the lawsuit that she filed against Missguided almost $3 million richer. On Tuesday, a California federal judge gave the go-ahead to a default judgment in Kardashian’s favor, ordering the American arm of the British fast fashion retailer to pay up $2,700,000 in damages and $59,600 in attorneys' fees to Kardashian in connection with the trademark infringement and right of publicity suit she filed in February.
The court order comes after Missguided failed to respond to the suit, prompting Kardashian’s counsel to seek a quick win and monetary damages to the tune of more than $10 million to go along with it. While Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California refused to enter a default judgment against Misguided UK, almost certainly due to jurisdiction issues, she did permanently enjoin Misguided USA from “using Kardashian's trademarks in connection with the sale, marketing or distribution of its products,” and ordered the company to pay up $2,759,600, a fraction of the $10 million-plus that Kardashian was seeking.
Kardashian filed suit after Missguided posted an image of a lookalike model wearing a metallic cut-out frock, a dead-ringer for a custom Yeezy dress that Kardashian posted an image of just a few hours prior with a plea that “fast fashion brands ... please wait until I wear this in real life before you knock it off?” Just a few hours later, Missguided posted a sneak peek of the copycat dress, along with the caption, “The devil works hard but Missguided works harder,” prompting allegations that Kardashian was leaking imagery to the brand as part of a behind-the-scenes deal, something she has since publicly denied.
The copycat dress, itself, was not the topic of the litigation, largely because of copyright loopholes when it comes to useful articles, such as garments. Instead, the mega-influencer asserted that Missguided has made a habit of using her name and image to hawk its copycat wares without her authorization, thereby engaging in “willful” trademark infringement and unfair competition, and running afoul of right of publicity law, the latter of which is a state-specific legal doctrine developed to give individuals – such as Kardashian – the ability to prevent others from commercially exploiting their names and/or likenesses without permission.
“While most companies understand and respect [her] right to control and approve any use of her name and likeness in connection with the promotion of products,” Kardashian asserted in her complaint, other companies, such as Missguided “have sought out ways to leverage her celebrity status and social media following without seeking her consent, turning her into an unwitting and unwilling spokesperson of their products.”
“A single social media post by Kardashian can fetch fees of several hundred thousand dollars, and her longer-term endorsement arrangements regularly garner fees in the millions of dollars,” Kardashian’s complaint asserts. And more than that, Kardashian says that she is very “selective of the third-party companies with whom she chooses to partner,” frequently opting out of proposed endorsement deals in an effort to “control the use of her name, likeness, and trademarks.” With this in mind, Kardashian argued that she was suffering actual monetary damages as a result of Missguided’s posts, which were allegedly aimed to making consumers believe that she is working in partnership with the brand.
According to an March filing by Kardashian’s counsel, Missguided was served with a summons and complaint, thereby calling it to respond and appear in court, but the Manchester-headquartered fashion brand has “failed to plead or otherwise defend [itself] in said action.” As a result, Kardashian asked the court to enter a default judgment, i.e., decide the case in the her favor, and require Missguided USA Finance Inc. to abide by that decision, despite the fact that the company has failed to participate in the case to date.
Missguided has the right to appeal the entry of default judgment and the damages awarded by the court.
* The case is Kimsaprincess, Inc.; and Kim Kardashian West v. Missguided USA (Finance) Inc., and Missguided Limited, 2:19-cv-01258 (C.D.Cal).