Image: Amiri

Zara and Amiri have settled their $3 million-plus legal battle centering on a pricey pair of biker-style jeans the Zara allegedly jacked from the burgeoning Los Angeles-based brand. The settlement comes almost a year after Amiri filed suit against Zara and its parent company Inditex in a federal court in California, arguing that the fast fashion giant was running afoul of federal trademark law by offering up a style of jeans bearing “obvious and overwhelming similarities” to its $1,150 MX2 jeans without ever “approaching [Amiri] for a license to use its trade dress or other of [its] intellectual property rights” in connection with its staple denim offering.

Specifically, Amiri – which got its start in 2014 under the watch of designer Mike Amiri – asserted in its January 2020 complaint (and in a subsequently amended one) that it maintains trademark rights in the configuration of “stretch denim, pleated leather panel detailing, zippered outside thigh pockets, zipper closures at the knee-line, and hand-distressed abrasions throughout” that makes up its MX2 jeans. The combination of design elements is “a prominent, well-known and famous indicator of the origin,” and  “instantly recognizable” as coming from the Amiri brand – or in other words, Amiri claimed that the combination acts as a trademark, which Zara’s lookalike denim infringed, as consumers are likely to have been confused about the source of the Zara denim and/or its connection with Amiri.

Setting forth claims of trade dress infringement and dilution, and unfair competition, among others, Amiri alleged that beginning in December 2019, in an attempt to “capitalize on the goodwill, recognition and fame associated with the Amiri MX2 jeans,” Zara “blatantly [and] willfully” replicated them by way of its $50 Combination Skinny Jeans. Zara’s “lower-quality, knock-off” jeans replicate “virtually every discernible aspect” of the MX2 jeans, Amiri argued, claiming that the “serial infringer’s” lookalike jeans were “intended to emulate the AMIRI MX2 jeans” in nearly every respect, albeit at a much different price point. 

Zara responded to Amiri’s complaint in April, asserting that the buzzy brand “does not own any protectable trade dress rights” in the MX2 jeans. According to Zara, the design of Amiri’s jeans “qualifies, without limitation, as functional, generic, ornamental, and/or not distinctive,” and thus, is not a valid trademark. And even if Amiri does maintain trade dress rights and those rights were infringed by way of its Combination Skinny Biker jeans, Zara argued that it “acted in good faith and without any intent to infringe [Amiri’s] purported rights.” 

As we previously noted, Amiri’s trade dress claims are interesting, as while its MX2 jeans has certainly been the subject of a fair share of unsolicited (i.e., not directly paid-for) media attention thanks to their adoption by celebrities, such Odell Beckham, Jr., Future, and Kris Wu, which bodes well from a secondary meaning perspective, it would be interesting to see whether the brand 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). 

More than that, Zara argued that Amiri’s claims are barred by the (alleged) fact that while it claimed to have suffered damages “believed to be in excess of $3,000,000,” the brand did not actually suffer any damages as a result of Zara’s alleged infringement (i.e., its sale of inexpensive, lookalike jeans). The fast fashion giant also asserted that it should be shielded from infringement liability because its use of the design at issue amounted to fair use, a defense to trademark infringement. 

Unfortunately for those that may have been looking forward to seeing Amiri make its case that consumers link the biker-style MX2 design to a single source (which it would aim to establish by way of a handful of secondary meaning factors, from sales success and unsolicited media attention to advertising expenditures and examples of others’ attempts to copy the mark), and that its mark is, in fact, “famous and distinctive” enough to warrant a dilution claim, the case has come to a quiet close. In a filing on December 16, the parties alerted the court that they “have reached an agreement to settle all claims in this matter” and are “currently in the process of documenting the settlement and expect to file a stipulation of dismissal within the coming weeks.” 

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