Ivanka Trump is allegedly seeking to avoid testifying under oath in the case that Aquazzura filed against her eponymous label. “We are having trouble scheduling Ivanka Trump’s deposition,” Aquazzura’s lawyer John Margiotta told Judge Katherine Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York during a telephone hearing this week. “On Friday, we were notified that they are not in fact willing to produce Ms. Trump at all.”
According to Bloomberg, Ivanka Trump’s counsel, Darren Saunders, “said she shouldn’t be forced to testify because she doesn’t have any relevant information about the shoes, which are sold with her name stamped on them.” Saunders argued in court that Trump “was not involved in the design, promotion or sale of the shoe.”
Instead Ms. Trump looks at samples and approves them, he said, which Aquazzura’s counsel noted in at odds with the many times Trump was quotes as being heavily involved and hands-on with the running of her brand.
Moreover, the First Daughter’s team held that Trump should be excused for testifying because of her “extraordinary circumstances” as a “high-ranking government employee.”
While it appeared that Trump might have been able to avoid a deposition – in which she would have to answer an array of questions from Aquazzura’s legal team about the case under oath in an out-of-court setting, that is not the case. Judge Forrest held that she hopes the parties can find a way to limit the questioning by first taking testimony from Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand.”
As Judge Forest noted, “There’s no doubt that Ms. Trump has a second job right now.”
Aquazzura, filed a trade dress infringement suit against Ivanka Trump and her licensee, Marc Fisher, in June 2016, alleging that the potential First Daughter copied one of its best-selling and most “distinctive” shoe designs. According to Florence-based Aquazzura’s complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, a federal court in Manhattan, Ivanka Trump and Marc Fisher are producing footwear that “mimics every key element of the trade dress of Aquazzura’s well-known and distinctive” shoes, in particular, a $145 “exact copy” of its own $700+ Wild Thing style.
Trump and co. responded by filing a counterclaim seeking a ruling from the court that the Aquazzura shoes in question are, in fact, not subject to trademark protection (and therefore, Trump/Fisher can continue to sell them without fear of future litigation from Aquazzura). According to Trump’s team, the Wild Thing design “lacks secondary meaning and does not function as an indicator of source” and thus, should not be protected by trademark law.
As of November 2016, Aquazzura expanded the breadth of its trade dress infringement suit against Trump, opting to add a design patent infringement claim to the mix, as well. While Aquazzura does not hold design patent protection for its Wild Thing sandal, it does maintain design patent protection for its Christy design, which should make for a relatively easy win in terms of Trump’s Tropica style, a flat with an intricate lacing design.
UPDATE (6/26/2017): Judge Forest has held that Trump must take part in a desposition. “Ms. Trump’s public statements regarding active and comprehensive brand management lead to a reasonable inference that the shoe at issue would not have been released without her approval,” Judge Forrest wrote in her order. “In such a situation,” she added, “a deposition is appropriate.”
The deposition will run no longer than two hours because of Trump’s “competing professional obligations” and will be given before the end of October, per Forrest’s order.
* The case is Aquazzura Italia SRL v. Trump et al, 1:16-cv-04782 (SDNY).