You may recall that in 2006, Los Angeles-based brand Libertine filed a federal copyright infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition, and dilution of trade dress lawsuit against fellow L.A. brand A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz, a pretty notorious design pirate. Libertine's co-founders Johnson Hartig and Cindy Greene also alleged unfair trade practices and unfair competition under California state law. In its complaint, Libertine, which is a brand focused on vintage reworked womenswear and menswear, and that stocks internationally at "it" stores (think: Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Maxfield in Los Angeles, Colette in Paris, and Joyce in Hong Kong), alleged that A.B.S. copied the design of its label and appropriated original artwork.
In its complaint, Libertine, which was founded in 2001, alleged that A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz earned approximately $14 million using artwork lifted from his company, and as a result, the company was forced to discontinue the graphics, "for fear of association." Libertine further accused A.B.S. of "copying graphical and other signature design, packaging and source-identifying elements" of Libertine's line, which helped to set their brand apart from all others. One such element: a graphic of a skull surrounded by a wreath, which was created and subsequently copyrighted by Libertine, and served as the basis for Libertine's first claim of copyright infringement against A.B.S. In addition, the Libertine designers alleged that A.B.S. was as using a label that was "indistinguishable" from Libertine's.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles federal court and subsequently amended to include the claim stemming from the copied tag, was settled in January 2007, and terms were not disclosed. Libertine co-founder and co-designer Johnson Hartig, however, said he was "very pleased" with the settlement, which he echoed in a interview with us this summer. The lawsuit, itself, marked the first time A.B.S. company founder and "design" director Allen Schwartz has gone to trial for copyright infringement, even though the success of his brand is based primarily on manufacturing and selling affordable copies of designer wares.