Image: Philipp Plein

A handful of pieces from designer Philipp Plein’s rock-n-roll-inspired Spring/Summer 2020 collection – which included skull-adorned face masks, heavily studded and/or spiked leather jackets and over-the-knee boots, and “KISS” embroidered mini dresses thanks to a collaboration with the band – are at the center of a new copyright lawsuit. In the complaint that it filed against a number of Philipp Plein’s corporate entities in a New York Federal Court on Friday, Resurrect By Night (“RBN”) claims that Philipp Plein allegedly took its artwork and slapped it on $945 t-shirts, $6,915 leather jackets, and $820 jeans, among other S/S20 garments, and began selling them under the Philipp Plein brand name despite having never been authorized to do so. 

According to its June 4 complaint, RBN alleges that it has built its brand by way of “aggressive [and] authentic clothes [that] display a distinct artistic sensibility which it has carefully and painstakingly developed over the years.” The plaintiff claims that its founder, artist Daren Chambers sources vintage garments, and “re-purposes and hand paints every unique piece, inspired by music, art and culture,” and in the process, RBN has become known for its “use of an unusual mix [of] media and techniques to create two and three-dimensional pieces” that have been stocked by Barneys, worn by basketball superstar Russell Westbrook, and featured by outlets, such as GQ. 

“As a result of [its] efforts, the quality of its products, its promotions, extensive press and media coverage and word-of-mouth buzz,” RBN contends that its “clothing has become prominently placed in the minds of the public.” And in what appears to be a veering into trademark territory, despite this being an exclusively copyright-centric case, counsel for RBN asserts that “members of the public have become familiar with [RBN’s] products and have come to recognize them and associate them exclusively with [RBN],” which “has acquired a valuable reputation and goodwill among the public as a result of such associations.” 

Thanks to the appeal of its “innovative clothing,” RBN claims that it and “its designs have become targets for unscrupulous individuals and entities that wish to exploit the goodwill, reputation and fame that [it has] amassed in its products.” One such copycat, according to the complaint? Philipp Plein, which took “artwork that is substantially similar to [RBN’s] designs,” and “manufactured, imported, exported, advertised, distributed, offered for sale or sold [those] designs” by way of its own 100-plus stores and its e-commerce site, as well as via Alibaba’s sweeping TMall platform, where Plein began selling its products in December 2020. 

RBN’s designs (left) & Philipp Plein’s designs (right)

In doing so, RBN claims that Plein has taken its “unique artistic style and approach and misappropriated it for [Plein’s] own use,” and run afoul of U.S. copyright law. 

Specifically, RBN points to two designs that Plein allegedly misappropriated: “The first design features a muscular, skull-faced character raising clenched fists,” and the second “features a blonde, skull-faced character in a short dress, above flames.” Despite knowing that RBN “never authorized [it] to appropriate, reproduce, display or distribute the [allegedly infringing] designs, let alone to adapt the designs in order to create shirts and other derivative works based on [RBN’s] designs,” RBN claims that Plein engaged in the “unauthorized and unlawful” use of these two designs by reproducing them “on apparel under the ‘Philipp Plein’ name,” and displaying, distrusting, and selling them. 

Upon learning of Plein’s use of the artwork, RBN claims that it “contacted all three [of the] defendants in September 2020 and requested that [they] cease and desist, inter alia, producing, distributing, marketing and selling the infringing products,” but the defendants “have not complied and therefore, their conduct is willful.” With the forgoing in mind and given that the defendants’ conduct has “damaged [its] ability to sell or license the designs while, at the same time, enabling the defendants to profit from the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, display, sale and distribution of the designs,” RBN sets forth copyright infringement claims, and is seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief. 

A rep for Philipp Plein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Resurrect the Night LLC v. Philipp Plein Americas, Inc., et al., 1:21-cv-04948 (SDNY).