Image: Amiri

AMIRI’s $1,150-plus MX2 biker jeans have helped cement the covetability of the burgeoning Los Angeles-based brand since they debuted last year, swiftly finding their way into the wardrobes of musicians and sports stars like Odell Beckham, Jr., Future, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyga, and Kris Wu, among other famous fans of the brand, and helping 7-year AMIRI to generate “millions of dollars” in denim revenue, alone. The “distinctive and instantly recognizable” design of the pricey jeans have also landed somewhere else, according to AMIRI: on the shelves of Zara.

In a newly-filed complaint, AMIRI asserts that “serial infringer” Zara is running afoul of the law thanks to its sale of a specific pair of biker jeans, a style that is complete with “obvious and overwhelming similarities” to its MX2 jeans. According to AMIRI’s suit, which was filed in a California federal court on Wednesday, the Spanish fast fashion is “blatantly and unlawfully misappropriating [Amiri’s] valuable trade dress rights” in the jeans by way of “its own lower-quality, knock-off Combination Skinny Biker jeans.”

AMIRI claims that “in or about December 2019,” almost a year after it first began selling its MX2 jeans, “Zara began selling its own knock-off jeans,” which come with “the same distinctive pleated leather panel detailing, side zippered thigh pockets, zippered knee closures, and skinny fit washed denim” as AMIRI’s hot-selling denim. Specifically, AMIRI asserts that its protectable trade dress consists of: “stretch denim, pleated leather panel detailing, zippered outside thigh pockets, zipper closures at the knee-line, and hand-distressed abrasions throughout.”

A subset of trademark law, trade dress provides protection for the configuration – including the design and shape – of a product itself, as long as that configuration has amassed “secondary meaning” in the minds of consumers. In other words, consumers must be able to link that specific design with a single source in the same way as, say, they link a brand’s name or logo with a single company. (Courts have routinely held that secondary meaning is built up over time by way of unsolicited media coverage of the specific configuration, sales success, advertising efforts, etc.).

 image via complaint image via complaint

(While AMIRI’s MX2 pants have certainly been the subject of a fair share of unsolicited (i.e., not directly paid-for) media attention thanks to their adoption by celebrities, which bodes well from a secondary meaning perspective, it would be interesting to see whether AMIRI would actually be able to show that consumers link the trade dress at issue to a single source given that other, bigger brands, namely, Saint Laurent (under the direction of Hedi Slimane) and Balmain (in its halcyon Christophe Decarnin days), have showed similar style pants before the release of the MX2’s).

“In short,” AMIRI claims, “virtually every discernible aspect of the Zara Combination Skinny Biker jeans is intended to emulate the AMIRI MX2 jeans,” and the “overlap” between the two companies’ products “is particularly remarkable given the limitless options available to a designer when producing a pair of denim jeans.” Yet, “at every step of the way, Zara made the choice to mirror the look and feel of the AMIRI jeans. Given the infinite number of ways that a pair of jeans can be designed, the inescapable conclusion is that Zara knowingly and intentionally sought out to copy the AMIRI MX2 jeans down to the very last detail.”

Despite the lookalike nature of the parties’ pants, “Zara never approached [AMIRI] for a license to use its trade dress or other of [its] intellectual property rights,” the brand claims, and instead, Zara “blatantly, willfully, and [with] conscious disregard for [AMIRI’s] rights … has taken to capitalizing on the goodwill, recognition and fame associated with the AMIRI MX2 jeans.”

Zara’s $50 knockoffs – which have disappeared from its e-commerce sites – not only “diminish the apparent exclusivity of genuine AMIRI MX2 jeans and dilutes the brand,” the company asserts in its complaint that “the inferior quality of Zara’s jeans will tarnish the reputation that [AMIRI] has worked very hard to develop, and on which [it] has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in promotions and advertising.” As a result of Zara’s alleged infringement, AMIRI says that it will “suffer lost sales and foregone business because of the improper and negative associations between [itself] and the inferior Zara knock-offs.”

With the foregoing in mind, AMIRI sets forth claims of trade dress infringement and dilution, and unfair competition, and claims that it has suffered damages, including as a result of confusion amongst consumers as to the source/nature of Zara’s copycat jeans, “believed to be in excess of $3,000,000.” The brand is seeking monetary damages, as well as injunctive relief to immediately and permanently bar Zara from selling the allegedly infringing pants.

*The case is Atelier Luxury Group LLC v. Zara USA, Inc., 2:20-cv-00675 (C.D.Cal.)