Siwy Denim has won the first round in its lawsuit against the label’s founder Michelle Siwy and Wildfox Couture, and this serves as yet another cautionary tale for designers who want to use their personal name as their brand name. A bit of background: Los Angeles-based New Crew Production Corp. acquired the Siwy Denim brand in 2009. Siwy cut ties with her brand during the summer of 2012, and subsequently filed a $1 million lawsuit against them in April, alleging that the company reneged on repeated promises to grant her a 32 percent stake in Siwy Denim).
As of this year, Michelle Siwy has joined the Wildfox Couture team, designing for the brand’s new denim collection, Wildfox Denim, which released its first collection of jeans this summer. Because the Wildfox Denim collection has been marketed as “Wildfox Denim by Michelle Siwy,” Siwy Denim filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the two parties in July 2013. (Along with its acquisition of the Siwy brand, New Crew bought into all of the brand’s intellectual property, including the various “Siwy” trademarks).
According to Siwy Denim, “Beginning in Spring 2013, Wildfox Couture and Michelle Siwy began a social media campaign advertising a line of denim apparel containing the term ‘Siwy.'” The company filed suit against Wildfox and Michelle Siwy in July 2013 for trademark infringement. Siwy Denim asked the Los Angeles Superior Court to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting Wildfox from using “Siwy” in its marketing of the denim line, and as of October 9th, the court granted Siwy Denim’s request. As a result, Wildfox must stop using the “Siwy” trademark until further notice in connection with “any denim apparel advertised, marketed, promoted, manufactured or sold.”
Michelle Siwy has since taken to her Twitter account to clear up some of the confusion, including the following in her bio: “Note: I am no longer affiliated with the Siwy Denim brand, and the denim products advertised by Wildfox are not produced by Siwy Denim.” She also tweeted that she is still involved in the Wildfox Denim collection, saying: “I look forward to your continued support in my new and exciting roll for Wildfox.” So, designers take note. If you use your name in your brand name and subsequently sell your brand, you very well may lose the right to use your name in other ventures in the future.