image: Mara Hoffman

image: Mara Hoffman

Mara Hoffman, Inc. has filed suit against Forever 21 – again – for allegedly copying one of her original prints. According to Hoffman’s complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court the Southern District of New York this week, the Los Angeles-based fast fashion giant has been selling swimwear that infringes upon Hoffman’s copyright-protected “Leaf” fabric print.

Known for its colorful printed swimwear and cover ups, New York-based Mara Hoffman alleges that Forever 21 has “infringed [its] copyright by manufacturing, importing, displaying, distributing, selling, offering for sale, promoting and advertising women’s swimwear which exploit, use or otherwise incorporate a design unlawfully taken from Mara Hoffman’s copyrighted work.”

At least one of the allegedly infringing bathing suits – the Floral Print Bikini Bottom – is still being offered for sale on Forever 21’s site.  

In addition to the copying at hand – which Hoffman alleges done with “willful and with knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, [its] copyrights” – the complaint states that Hoffman has been a target of Forever 21’s copying way in the past.  

Forever 21 “was sued twice for copyright infringement of designs owned by [Mara Hoffman].” In fact, nearly identical copyright infringement complaints were filed by Hoffman in 2012 against Forever 21 for allegedly infringing Hoffman’s “Chief” print, and then again in 2013 in connection with Hoffman’s “Arrows” print. The parties managed to settle both of those lawsuits out of court prior to trial.

 Forever 21's bathing suit (left) & Mara Hoffman's

Forever 21’s bathing suit (left) & Mara Hoffman’s “Leaf” print (right)

While most fashion designs, as a whole, typically fall outside of the realm of copyright protection, original prints, such as Hoffman’s “Leaf” print, are a well-established exception and thereby, protected from infringement in the form of blatant replication without authorization from the copyright holder.

Hoffman’s counsel, Joseph T. Murray of New York-based firm, Hart Baxley Daniels & Holton, told TFL: “Mara Hoffman expends tremendous energies and employs a highly talented workforce to transform its unmistakable print designs into superior quality clothing.  Inexpensive imitations harm not only the integrity of the Mara Hoffman brand but, more broadly, hurt legions of talented artists, designers and other dedicated people working in the fashion industry that depend on creativity and innovative designs for their livelihood.”

In addition to asking the court for injunctive relief, which would immediately and permanently bar the fast fashion giant from garments bearing the copyright-protected print, Hoffman is seeking monetary damages in connection with the alleged copyright infringement. 

This is just one of the several recent lawsuits that have been filed against notorious copycat Forever 21. The fast fashion giant is currently facing off against adidas, Gucci, and Puma in separate lawsuits.

* The case is Mara Hoffman, Inc. v. Forever 21, Inc., 1:17-cv-05393 (SDNY).