Rihanna’s Fenty Puma wares are soon to be at the center of one less lawsuit. Puma and Forever 21 have managed to settle the design patent, trade dress, and copyright infringement lawsuit that the German sportswear giant filed against the Los Angeles-based fast fashion company in April 2017, with the parties agreeing to dismiss the case (subject to court approval), according to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
While the terms of the parties’ settlement are confidential, the Stipulation to Dismiss Case, which was filed on Wednesday, states that “all claims and defenses in this action shall be dismissed with prejudice,” meaning that Puma cannot refile the case on the same grounds at a later date, and that “all parties [will] bear their own fees and costs.”
The settlement comes just weeks after Forever 21 sought a partial dismissal of the case, arguing that Puma’s design patent claim, which extends to the Fenty Puma Creeper sneaker, should be tossed out, as the design is not new to Puma, and in fact, dates “back decades to the mid-twentieth century.”
Before that, Forever 21 argued that Puma should be taken to task for “misrepresenting material facts” – including who, exactly, designed the shoes – “to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Copyright Office” with its filings for some of the footwear at issue in the case, “thereby committing fraud.”
To this, Judge Phillip Gutierrez stated in a hearing in December, “Although Puma publicly advertises that Rihanna herself designed the shoes at-issue in this litigation, Rihanna is not named as an author on Puma’s copyright applications or as an inventor on Puma’s design patent.” From this, he asserted, “There are only two logical conclusions to draw.’ Either: “Puma misrepresented material facts to the Patent Office and the Copyright Office, thereby committing fraud on those offices; or Puma has misrepresented to the consuming public that Rihanna designed the shoes at-issue in this case, thereby misrepresenting to this court that her involvement impacts the goodwill it contends is associated with the asserted trade dress.”
Puma initially filed suit against Forever 21 in the spring of 2017, claiming that the notorious copycat replicated and sold three of the most prominent footwear designs from Rihanna’s sold-out collection for Puma in an attempt to “trade on the substantial goodwill of Puma, Rihanna, and the Fenty shoes.”
Puma alleged in its suit that in light of the “immense popularity and acclaim” of its Rihanna line of footwear, Forever 21 copied its designs, namely, the Creeper, Fur Slide and Bow Slide styles. In connection with the aforementioned designs, Puma asserted claims of trade dress and copyright infringement. Additionally, the sportswear giant claimed that Forever 21’s copies of the Creeper give rise to a design patent infringement claim, as well. (Note: Puma’s complaint was one of the first filings, if not the first, to cite the Supreme Court’s decision in Star Athletica in connection with its own copyright infringement claims).
Once the court approves the parties’ settlement, Puma, Fenty Corp., and Rihanna, herself, will still be embroiled in another suit, in which they are the ones being sued. Just last month, clothing company Freedom United named the trio in a separate lawsuit, alleging that they are knowingly running afoul of federal trademark law and engaging in unfair competition in connection with Fenty Puma garments and accessories adorned with the letters “F.U.”, which are confusingly similar to the “FU” emblazoned wares that Freedom United has been selling for over 10 years.