While the Supreme Court’s decision in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, otherwise known as “the cheerleading case,” came in March, marking the outcome (at least in part) of one of the most highly watched fashion law cases over the past several years, 2017 was still a rather significant one for fashion and culture-related lawsuits. From the ongoing battle of the right to use stripes to the ugly dispute between rivals Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera, some of the industry’s biggest names have been in and out of court all year long. Here is a look at some of the biggest domestic lawsuits of 2017 (a look at international litigation to follow) …
1. Supreme Court Denies Louis Vuitton’s Appeal Over “Parody” Tote Bags. Louis Vuitton filed suit against My Other Bag, alleging that the brand was not only infringing its federally registered trademarks and copyrights, but it was also diluting the “distinctive quality” of Louis Vuitton’s world-famous trademarks by slapping then on its inexpensive canvas tote bags. MOB argued that it should be shielded from trademark and copyright liability, as its bags amount to parodies. And both the district court and the court of appeals agreed, prompting Louis Vuitton – the world’s most valuable luxury brand – to file a petition for writ of certiorari in July, asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.
2. Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta Quietly Settle Designer Legal Dispute. Rival design houses Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta have managed to settle their dispute regarding the non-compete provision in the contract of Laura Kim, Herrera’s former senior designer and Oscar de la Renta’s current co-creative director. Kim, who is named as a party in the lawsuit, joined the Carolina Herrera team in October 2015 and was slated to begin her transition to replace the house’s founder – a $1 million dollar per year-paying job (with a potential $300,000 bonus) – beginning in late February 2016, something that was unknown to Ms. Herrera, 77.
3. Male Model Files Sexual Harassment Suit Against Bruce Weber. The sexual harassment claims that have taken over Hollywood in the past several months have begun to make their way into the fashion industry, where rumblings of tell-alls have been underway since the New York Times published a wildly damning expose on mega-producer Harvey Weinstein. Male model Jason Boyce has slapped one of fashion’s most famous photographers, Bruce Weber, with a strongly-worded lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and discrimination.
4. How LuLaRoe Went from a $1 Billion Business to a Magnet for Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuits. LuLaRoe is imploding. Despite boasting sales that soared 600 percent last year to around $1 billion and a seller base of more 80,000 individuals in the U.S., alone, the online retailer has been increasingly plagued with a flurry of consumer complaints and litigation in recent years. Most of the fallout centers on LuLaRoe’s allegedly defective products, its purportedly fraudulent business practices, and its so-called “pyramid scheme” model.
5. Forever 21 Sues Trademark “Bully” Adidas, Says “Enough is Enough.” On the heels of Adidas filing (and subsequently settling) a trademark infringement suit against Forever 21 in 2015, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion retailer has filed its own suit against the German sportswear giant. In its complaint, which Forever 21 filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the retailer alleges that it received “a letter dated February 24, 2017, [in which] Adidas’s counsel … threatened to sue Forever 21 over its use of stripes on six items of clothing.”
6. Forever 21 Slaps Gucci with Strongly-Worded Trademark Lawsuit. In something of a role reversal, Gucci has been slapped with a lawsuit by notorious copycat retailer Forever 21. According to the Los Angeles-based fast fashion giant’s lawsuit, which was filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Gucci has repeatedly threatened to sue Forever 21 for using an array of its registered trademarks. As a result, Forever 21 is taking the matter to court to wage war against the famed Italian design house.
7. Puma Files Patent, Copyright, Trade Dress Suit Against Forever 21 Over Rihanna Shoes. On the heels of reports that Forever 21 is offering lookalike versions of footwear from Rihanna’s Fenty line for Puma, the German sportswear giant has slapped the copycat retailer with a design patent, trade dress, and copyright infringement lawsuit. According to Puma’s suit, which was in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion brand has copied three of the most prominent footwear designs from Rihanna’s collection for Puma in attempts to “trade on the substantial goodwill of Puma, Rihanna, and the Fenty shoes.”
8. New Ruling in Beyoncé Photo Case Poses Potential Risks for Websites. LiveJournal is headed to trial for posting copyright-protected celebrity photos online, according to a new ruling from a federal court of appeals. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the California District Court’s decision that LiveJournal – which hosts celebrity gossip forum, Oh No They Didn’t! – is not liable for copyright infringement for photos posted on ONTD by its moderators.
9. Amazon is Tricking Consumers with its “Ships from and sold by Amazon” Label, Per New Suit. In October, Mercedes Benz’s parent company, Daimler AG, filed suit against Amazon.com, alleging that the e-commerce giant is actively engaging in trademark infringement and counterfeiting. While this might sound like your typical counterfeit-focused lawsuit, it isn’t. Not only does Daimler call foul on the sale of infringing and counterfeit goods by third-party marketplace sellers (which is what almost all of the lawsuits involving platforms like Amazon have alleged to date), it alleges that Amazon, itself, is actively selling counterfeit goods.
10. Kering, Alibaba Settle Counterfeiting Lawsuit … Again. But Will it Stick? French luxury group Kering and Alibaba Group have come to what they call “a groundbreaking agreement” to cooperate in their efforts to protect intellectual property and take joint enforcement actions online and offline. The announcement, which comes by way of a glowing joint statement from Alibaba and Kering, is the result of a battle that has forced the parties in and out of court for the past several years after Kering filed two back to back lawsuits against the Chinese e-commerce giant over the enormous amount of fake goods on its platform.