Forever 21 is not backing down in the fight that Puma initiated against it for allegedly selling line-for-line copies of its Fenty collection, which is fronted by Rihanna. Following several rounds of back-and-forth since the case was filed in April, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion giant is aiming to force Puma and a handful of non-party entities – including Rihanna, herself, her record label, Roc Nation, and the LVMH-owned Kendo Holdings, which is responsible for manufacturing and marketing the singer’s Fenty Beauty collection – to turn over information regarding the singer's actual level of involvement in her various ventures.
The requests for additional information come a month after Judge Philip Gutierre of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California called into question potential foul play on the part of Puma in connection with the creation of the hot-selling Fenty collection. In a hearing in December, Judge Gutierre stated, “Although Puma publicly advertises that Rihanna herself designed the shoes at-issue in this litigation, Rihanna is not named as an author on Puma’s copyright applications or as an inventor on Puma’s design patent.”
“There are only two logical conclusions to draw from these facts,” Gutierre stated. “Puma misrepresented material facts to the Patent Office and the Copyright Office, thereby committing fraud on those offices; or Puma has misrepresented to the consuming public that Rihanna designed the shoes at-issue in this case, thereby misrepresenting to this court that her involvement impacts the goodwill it contends is associated with the asserted trade dress.”
(Side note: A potential defense to infringement involves showing that the plaintiff (Puma in our case) defrauded the protection-awarding office (i.e., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or the Copyright Office) in order to obtain the trademark(s), patent(s), or copyright(s) at issue. This appears to be something that Forever 21 asserted given Judge Gutierre's discourse last month).
According to Forever 21, the pleadings in the case and Puma’s public statements lead to the conclusion that Rihanna may be a “necessary and indispensable party” to the litigation. This is something with which Judge Gutierre appears to be on board, stating last month that "good cause for this extension [of time to add additional parties to the case] exists because the pleadings and Puma’s own public statements lead to the conclusion that Robyn Rihanna Fenty may be a necessary and indispensable party to this litigation or, at the very least, a third-party that could be joined."
As we noted in the past, it is largely Melissa Battifarano – a Fashion Institute of Technology grad and an alum of Sean Jean, Polo, Fila, Tommy Hilfiger, and most recently, Tory Burch, where she served as the Senior Designer for Tory Sport – who, as the design director for Fenty, is responsible for the design process, itself.
Stay tuned ...
* The case is PUMA SE v. Forever 21, Inc., 2:17-cv-02523 (C.D.Cal).