Longchamp USA Inc., the French luxury brand founded in 1948 by Jean Cassegrain, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in New York federal court earlier this month against Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., alleging that it suffered losses in excess of $1 million over the sale of copycat bags sold by Bed Bath & Beyond and Laila Rowe, a self-described accessory store of choice for fashionistas. Capelli New York, a designer and manufacturer of apparel and branded products, is also named as a defendant in the suit, in which Longchamp claims that the defendants ripped off the trademarked look and style of its famed Le Pliage handbag, which is protected by law. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Longchamp's parent company, S.A.S. Jean Cassegrain, a design patent for the purse, as well as trademarks covering the distinctive look of the bag.
In its complaint, Longchamp accuses the home furnishings retailer, as well as Laila Rowe and Capelli, of peddling knockoff coin purses and handbags that channel the French company’s timeless Le Pliage purses. According to the complaint, the Le Pliage, a.k.a. 1623 Handbag, is a roomy nylon tote that folds into a compact shape for storage, evoking a tony envelope silhouette with embossed leather trims. The carryall with joie de vivre flair is hugely popular among royals and celebrities alike, including Kate Middleton, Alessandra Ambrosio, Jessica Alba and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Plaintiff claims the look of defendant’s handbags use their “distinctive trapezoidal shape,” leather trim with unique stitching, a snap on the front leather flap and other distinguishing characteristics. Longchamp, known for its superior craftsmanship and quality, says handbags being sold at BB&B “are identical in appearance” to the Le Pliage handbag.
Longchamp recently released a highly lauded spring 2015 advertising campaign featuring Alexa Chung, a style trendsetter and contributing editor of British Vogue. In 2013, FORBES valued Longchamp at an estimated $1.5 billion. Le Pliage has sold over 30 million pieces since its inception in 1993. As such, the chic fashion house that Jean Cassegrains built -- which continues to be a family affair run by his son and grandchildren -- became a target for trademark infringement.
The standard for trademark infringement is based on the concept of confusion. The law imposes civil and criminal liability on those who use trademarks that are likely to cause confusion or to deceive the consuming public. A plaintiff in a trademark case has the burden of proving that the defendant’s use of a mark has created a likelihood-of-confusion about the source of the defendant’s goods. The level of protection against infringement of a trademark that the court will recognize varies with the strength and exclusivity of the mark. More to come …
STACY SLOTNICK, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, 2008, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, 2005, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College. Stacy performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, which include drafting and negotiating contracts; pitching clients for high-caliber media coverage; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent and other IP issues; advising on branding development; and consulting on design protection, licensing and merchandising. For more from Stacy, follow her on Twitter.