Another day, another brand is claiming exclusive rights in a variation of stripes, and for once, it actually is not adidas. This time around, it is New York-based brand Kule. According to Kule’s complaint, which was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Los Angeles-based brand Clare Vivier is infringing its two-vertical-stripes trademark.
Kule – a favorite of everyone from Alexa Chung and the ManRepeller's Leandra Medine to Gwyneth Paltrow and a handful of Vogue editors – holds a federally registered trademark (on the Supplemental Register) in the U.S. for “shirts with horizontal stripes and vertical two-color trim stripe at [the] bottom of shirt.” The brand states that it “affixes the vertical trim stripes to all of its shirts, and has been selling shirts with the trim stripes affixed to the bottom since at least as early as February of 2015.”
As a result of such use, Kule asserts that its mark has “acquired distinctiveness” throughout the U.S. – aka – when the average consumer sees the mark, they think of the Kule brand.
Things started to go south, says Kule, last month when Clare Vivier “began selling shirts and similar apparel with vertical trim stripes affixed to the shirts and similar apparel in the same location as the trademarked Kule trim stripe.”
A quick review of the garments currently being offered by Clare Vivier reveals that the brand is, in fact, selling sweaters and sweatshirts with stripes on the lower left corner – but the similarity seems to end there. Vivier’s garments bear a three-stripe variation that is markedly different in size, and that consists of three stripes directly embroidered onto the sweatshirts, as distinct from Kule’s two stripes, which appear on a separate fabric tab that is sewn into Kule's tees.
Nonetheless, Kule claims location, location, location. The brand states that Clare Vivier’s use of “vertical trim stripes on shirts in the same location as the Kule trademarked stripes is likely to cause consumer confusion,” since “the ordinary consumer would not and does not recognize any distinction between the Kule trim stripes and defendants’ trim stripes.” And such confusion is not merely theoretical, according to Kule. The brand claims that it has already caused consumer confusion and served to dilute – or lessen the uniqueness of – Kule’s trademark.
While the stripe-specific lawsuits that are already under way among Gucci, adidas, and Forever 21, do not appear to be very clear cut, this one might be a bit less complicated, for no reason other than that Kule appears to only be considering part of its trademark – the two vertical stripes tab – while neglecting the other – the placement of the vertical stripes tab on a striped shirt. Since Clare Vivier is not putting vertical stripes on any striped shirts, this might be a bit of an uphill battle for Kule.
More to come - in the meantime, there are more stripes this way.
A representative for Clare Vivier did not respond to a request for comment.