Farmland Industries is taking on Supreme over a design the cult streetwear brand recently released ... in what has to be one of the nicest possible ways. The Kansas City, Missouri-based agricultural cooperative tweeted the New York-based brand on Friday, calling attention to a baseball cap that bears Supreme’s logo, as well, as a graphic that – in Farmland’s words – “looks super familiar.” As far as we know, Farmland has opted out of threatening Supreme with a trademark infringement lawsuit (by way of a cease and desist letter) and instead, did the cool thing: Farmland asked Supreme to send it some of the hats.
As of now, it appears as though this matter is going destined for litigation. Nonetheless, given that there are some interesting elements at play, it is worth wondering: Does Farmland - which maintains at least one federal trademark registrations for its logo for use on meat products - have a case against Supreme?
To answer that question, we have to ask another one: Is there a likelihood of confusion at play here? In other words, is there a chance that consumers will see Supreme’s hat and think that is in some way endorsed by Farmland, or better yet, that it is the result of a collaboration between the companies. Now, it is important to note that in trademark infringement cases, courts take into account the types of goods/services that the trademarks at issue are typically used on as one of the facts to gauge whether or not confusion could exist. For Supreme, this is apparel and accessories. For Farmland, it is food.
Streetwear versus meat? Not much room for confusion. However, in our hypothetical case at hand, there are some additional facts that could, in fact, give rise to a chance that consumers might be confused.
Consider for a moment that the Supreme name is not only associated with in-demand clothing and accessories, which it routinely drops every Thursday in its handful of stores and on its website. The brand is also quite well-known for its practice of releasing a truly wide array of products. For instance, over the years, Supreme has put its logo on pool floats, sleds, storage boxes that look like Bibles, air horns, soup bowls, chop sticks, switch blades, hammers, electric shavers, shovels, pinball machines, tape measures, and a long list of other random goods.
Moreover, the brand is routinely looks to other brands – including but not limited to fashion/apparel names like Louis Vuitton, Rimowa, Champion, North Face, and Nike, but also Pioneer DJ, bike company Coleman, sports equipment makers Everlast and Rawlings, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Walter Kidde Company – as collaborative partners. The result has been Supreme branded boxing gloves, bikes, fire extinguishers, subway cards, etc.
With the wide range of products that Supreme regularly put its name on, coupled with its marked penchant for collaborations with other – sometimes downright random brands – in mind, the otherwise very unbelievable “likelihood of confusion” element becomes a bit more believable.