Kanye West has been accused of copying others’ designs in the past but this time his Yeezy Apparel, LLC ("Yeezy") brand is being taken to court for it. According to a new lawsuit filed on Thursday in federal court in Georgia, Columbus-based Jordan Outdoor Enterprises ("JOE") alleges that Yeezy Season 5 contains a handful of garments and accessories – from hoodies and pants to high heels and men’s boots – that make use of camouflage prints that are too similar to a number of its own copyright-protected camo prints.
JOE, which owns hunting company Realtree, claims that the garments and accessories are “substantially similar” to its original camo prints, including its Realtree® line of camouflage patterns, which are "among the most famous and well-known camouflage patterns in the camouflage industry in the United States and throughout the world," and for which it maintains an array of federal copyright registrations.
For the initiated, copyright law gives the holder of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, license, and to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work. Infringement occurs when another party reproduces, distributes, displays, etc., the copyright holder's original work - or one that is "substantially similar" to it - without the authorization to do so.
Also named in the lawsuit: Unknwn, basketball star Lebron James‘s Florida-based fashion outpost, which has been stocking the Yeezy Season 5 collection, including the Men's Canvas Military Boots and a long sleeve camouflage shirt, both of which are cited in the lawsuit.
But Yeezy did not merely copy JOE's patterns. The company alleges that as a result of language on Yeezy's website the brand is "misleadingly and falsely represents" that "all content [on its website] and all materials and content ... [is] owned by us, or used by us under authorization, and [is] protected by U.S. and foreign trademark and copyright laws." However, as JOE asserts, Yeezy "is not authorized to use, nor does it own, any of the JOE copyrights or trademarks at issue in this action."
In addition to injunctive relief (which would see the court order Yeezy and Unknwn to cease all manufacturing, marketing, and sales of the allegedly infringing products, and to turn over or destroy all existing infringing products), Jordan Outdoor Enterprises is seeking monetary damages, including statutory damages in accordance with the Copyright Act and lost profits, among others.
* The case is Jordan Outdoor Enterprises, Ltd. v. Yeezy Apparel, LLC et al, 4:18-cv-00053 (M.D. Ga.).