Puma is the latest in what seems to be a growing pool of defendants named in trade secret misappropriation lawsuits (think: Nike’s suit against its three design heads that jumped ship to Adidas, the shopping-app lawsuit that named Lindsay Lohan as a defendant, Cartier’s suit against a former ad exec that took a job at Tiffany & Co., the lawsuit naming Christie’s in connection with Heritage Auctions’ key Hermès experts, and of course, Louis Vuitton’s lawsuit against Coach). The American arm of the German sportswear brand has been slapped with a lawsuit by New York-based Parigi Group Ltd., a childrenswear company, which has licensed Puma’s wares for a decade. According to Parigi’s complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of New York this week, Puma initiated a “calculated scheme” in which it “intentionally and fraudulently made repeated misrepresentations to Parigi” that it intended to renew the parties’ more than 10-year-long license agreement from 2015 to 2018 for the purpose of diverting Parigi’s economic and business, and prospective economic and business, opportunities to themselves.” All the while,Puma, which recently named singer Rihanna as its creative director of sorts, was obtaining improper and duplicitous means confidential trade secrets in “violation of a number of confidentiality agreements.”
Additionally, Parigi alleges that Kering-owned, Puma “systematically misappropriated Parigi’s trade secret and proprietary business information to further their own nefarious agenda of secretly forming a secret joint venture.” The other party in that secret venture: United Legwear & Apparel Co., a New York-based manufacturer and distributor of socks, tights, and underwear, whose licenses include Puma, Jonathan Adler, Cynthia Rowley, and Happy Socks, among others. United Legwear has also been named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as it reportedly signed a deal with Puma to manufacture the brand’s kidswear going forward.
In addition to claims of trade secret misappropriation, which cite Puma’s wrongful obtainment of Parigi’s internal financials and customer lists, Parigi alleges that Puma tried to discredit Parigi among retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Specifically, Parigi claims that Puma engaged in a “carefully planned campaign,” contacting Parigi’s key customers, such as Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Costco, Ross and Belk, to disparage Parigi and its products by falsely representing that Parigi’s Puma products were “not approved Puma product” and were “not authentic.” In case that’s not enough, Parigi also claims that Puma further defamed Parigi by falsely stating that Parigi was going out of business, was going bankrupt, had pending legal issues and encouraged Parigi’s major customers to cease their business relationships with Parigi.
In light of such allegations (the claims include breach of contract, trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, tortious interference, and defamation, amongst others), Parigi is suing Puma for more than $75 million, since it claims it helped Puma grow its childrenswear business into a $75 million division, and this does not include additional damages it claims it suffered in direct connection with Puma’s behavior.