While Virgil Abloh is busy making headlines in connection with a newly-opened exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, a new collaboration with French swimwear brand Vilebrequin, and his latest menswear collection for Louis Vuitton, the trademark infringement lawsuit that Helly Hansen filed against his brand Off-White last year – in which Hansen asserted that Off-White intentionally adopted a stripe mark that it began using, and has consistently used, in the U.S. more than 40 years ago – is raging on behind the scenes.
On the heels of filing suit against Off-White in July 2018, Helly Hansen has filed an amended complaint in February 2019, claiming that Off-White adopted ta lookalike logo “with knowledge of, and the intent … to create a false suggestion of an affiliation or connection between [Off-White] and Helly Hansen, where none exists,” and/or “to trade off the goodwill of Helly Hansen and its HH Stripe [mark],” which is protected by a federally registered trademark for “parallel striping of white and another contrasting color that appears on the shoulder and sleeve of shirts and on the outer seam of the pants.”
More than that, though, Hansen sets the stage a bit by pointing to Off-White and Abloh’s alleged “history of infringement and unfair business practices.” This takes the form of a laundry list of instances in which Abloh and Off-White have been accused of hijacking others’ designs. For instance, Hansen asserts that “in March 2018, [Abloh] was accused of “knocking off the shoe designs of Amsterdam Warehouse co-founder, Elisa van Joolen.” After that, in May 2018, Hansen claims that “the Off-White founder was ‘in the spotlight for copying a chair design that is part of [his collaboration] with IKEA.’”
It goes on: “In June 2018, in an article entitled, ‘Another Day, Another Stolen Design by Virgil Abloh,’ a publication noted that [Abloh] was accused of ‘copying a [triangular] hoodie design’ from Japanese label ANREALAGE.’” And still yet, “less than a month later, Mr. Abloh was accused of ‘swiping’ “the ‘crossed arrows’ logo used by Off-White [from a logo] . . . designed in 1965 by Kinner, Calvert & Associ- ates, a UK-based design group.” Still yet, Hansen asserts that “in August 2018, [Abloh] was also accused of ‘copying graphic designer AG Fronzoni’s work from 1966’ in his menswear collection.”
Finally, Hansen asserts in its complaint that “Abloh has even confirmed that his first solo foray into fashion” – which came by way of Off-White predecessor company, Pyrex Vision – “was shuttered because ‘[he] legally can’t use the name ‘Pyrex’ anymore [due to trademark issues].’”
Against that background, Hansen claims that Off-White “has adopted a logo that is confusingly similar to Helly Hansen’s HH Stripe Logo,” and is using that logo on goods that are “the same and/or similar to the goods/services offered by Helly Hansen under its HH Stripe Logo.” As a result, the 144-year old outdoor apparel maker set forth claims of trademark infringement, and unfair competition against Off-White, and accused the brand of violating the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, all while seeking monetary damages, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, which would serve to bar Off-White from using the allegedly infringing logo.
* The case is Helly Hansen AS v. Off-White LLC, 1:18-cv-04755 (N.D. Ill).