image: Puma

image: Puma

“Everybody loves you until you become competition,” according to Philipp Plein, who has come under fire for allegedly copying another brand’s design. On the heels of being called out by Alexander Wang for allegedly copying the format of his sport-themed runway show (a rather clear cut case of inspiration, as opposed to imitation), Plein has received a cease and desist letter from Puma for allegedly taking too much inspiration from a pair of its sneakers.

Plein, who is known for his over-the-top runway extravaganzas and rock-n-roll style garments, took to his Instagram account on Friday to share his frustrations after the Kering-owned sportswear company threatened to sue him for trademark infringement. According to Plein’s post, “Just received a LOVE LETTER from PUMA trying to take legal action against us because they are trying to find similarities between their jumping KITTY KAT logo with a tail and our TIGER HEAD with claw stripes.”

“It is sad and ridiculous,” Plein continues, “that competitors are not always playing fair and trying everything in their power to interrupt the success from others …….. nobody can stop the growth of our new mega brand PLEINSPORT! Instead of wasting your time and money you guys should PLAY FAIR!  Let the games begin.”

While Puma has well-established global rights in its leaping puma logo, this is not necessarily an open-and-shut case of trademark infringement. In order for the German giant to prevail (should it file a trademark infringement lawsuit), it would have to establish that given Plein’s use of what it claims is a similar animal logo, that consumers are likely to be confused as to the source of the Plein sneakers, which could include consumers thinking the PleinSport sneakers and garments are the result of a collaboration between the brands.  

This is not the first time that Plein has aired his grievances on Instagram. In December 2016, Plein posted an image of a legal document, which he claimed was from legal counsel for Dolce & Gabbana. The Italian luxury brand’s lawyers reportedly sent Plein a letter outlining his company’s alleged attempts to poach roughly 10 employees from Dolce & Gabbana, most of whom work at the company’s flagship store on Via della Spiga in Milan.

According to Dolce & Gabbana’s counsel, two of its former employees, who now work for Plein, have been in contact with current Dolce & Gabbana employees for the sole purpose of poaching them to join Philipp Plein. In particular, D&G alleges that the two employees, Andrea Lanza Cariccio and Jaco Cuccato, who both worked for Dolce & Gabbana in the past, got in touch with several Dolce & Gabbana sales assistants to offer them work at Plein’s new showroom in Milan. 

While that matter never turned into a legal battle, if Plein does not comply with Puma’s requests (likely to cease all marketing and sales of the sneakers and garments at issue), we very well may have a budding lawsuit on our hands.