Patagonia has put one of its latest trademark fights to bed. Just two months after filing suit against OC Media, an oil-and-gas marketing company, for allegedly infringing its famous wordmark and logo by way of a “Petrogonia” clothing range, the Ventura, California-based outdoor apparel-maker filed to voluntarily dismiss the trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution, and copyright infringement case in its entirety, suggesting that the parties managed to settle their differences out of court. 

Patagonia filed suit against Denver, Colorado-based OC Media in a federal court in California in February, accusing the marketing company of “blatantly disregarding” its rights in the “PATAGONIA trademarks” by “manufacturing, promoting, offering for sale, and selling apparel products and accessories bearing the ‘Petrogonia’ name together with a design that is nearly identical to [Patagonia’s] P-6 logo.” 

According to Patagonia’s complaint, OC Media had adopted and was using a logo design that is “substantially similar to [Patagonia’s own] P-6 logo artwork, only replacing the mountain silhouette with machinery associated with oil wells that is staggered so as to mimic the P-6 logo, and adding ‘Petrogonia,’ a variation of the PATAGONIA word mark ostensibly intended to reference the oil and gas industry.” The brand went on to assert that there is “no explanation for the degree of copying involved in the design and branding of OC Media’s apparel and accessory products, except as a deliberate reference to the PATAGONIA brand and its trademarks.” 

In furtherance of its trademark-centric claims, Patagonia argued that OC Media was not merely using the “Petrogonia” name and logo in a purely decorative manner, something that would likely enable OC Media to escape infringement liability (since infringement only applies when the allegedly infringing words and/or designs are actually used as trademarks, i.e., as indicators of the source of the products upon which they appear). Instead, it was, in fact, using the lookalike name and logo “as trademarks and source identifiers of [its business],” as indicated by the fact that OC Media had applied to register the “Petrogonia” name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

Patagonia went on to argue that OC Media had intentionally and willfully “adopted a mark, name and logo that copies the PATAGONIA trademarks” long after Patagonia first set up shop in 1973, and decades are its “trademarks became famous.” And famous they are, Patagonia asserted, noting that “in the more than forty years since [its] business started, the PATAGONIA brand and its P-6 logo have become among the most identifiable brands in the world.” 

With that in mind, Patagonia argued that OC Media’s use of the lookalike and sound-alike marks “has caused or will cause a likelihood of confusion among consumers regarding the source of [OC Media’s] products and whether Patagonia has sponsored, licensed, authorized, or is somehow affiliated with OC.” Additionally, it claims that OC Media’s use of the marks “has caused or is likely to cause dilution of Patagonia’s famous and distinctive marks by diminishing their distinctiveness and singular association with Patagonia.” 

As such, Patagonia set forth claims of the trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution, and copyright infringement, and sought injunctive relief and monetary damages, including the profits that Patagonia alleged that OC Media made in connection with its sale of “substantial quantities of apparel products” bearing the allegedly infringing marks.

No stranger to trademark squabbles, Patagonia has taken on a whole array of companies over the years for their allegedly infringing uses of its famous trademarks – from its attempt to block the trademark registration for “Ganjagonia” (for use on animation production services such as “publishing or printed matter, books and electronic books; entertainment services, namely, providing information and commentary in the fields of authors, books, literary works and recommendations as to the same; providing a web site where users can post ratings, offer reviews and recommendations on literary works, books and printed matter”) to its currently ongoing legal fight with an Anheuser-Busch-owned company called Patagonia Brewing Co., which Patagonia claims is running afoul of its rights in the Patagonia name.

*The case is Patagonia, Inc. v. OC Media, LLC, 2:20-cv-01321 (C.D. Cal.).

Fashion Nova has reached a nearly $2 million settlement with prosecutors in four counties in California after repeatedly running afoul of a state law that requires companies to ship orders to consumers within 30 days. In furtherance of the settlement, which was announced on Thursday, the Southern California-based fast fashion giant agreed to pay $250,000 in restitution to the customers effected, along with $1.5 million in penalties and costs in order to shake the charges brought against it by the District Attorneys of Los Angeles, Alameda, Napa and Sonoma counties.

In a complaint filed with the Alameda County Superior Court this week, the District Attorneys of Los Angeles, Alameda, Napa and Sonoma Counties accused Fashion Nova of  “violating consumers’ rights by repeatedly failing to fulfill and ship orders within the legally-mandated 30-day timeframe,” while also failing to provide them adequate shipping delay notices.

California state law – and the Federal Trade Commission’s updated Mail Order Rule – requires that an order placed on the Internet be shipped to the consumer within thirty days of the order being completed, and if a company fails to ship the product within that time, it “must either provide a refund, or take some other action, such as sending the buyer a written notice regarding the delay,” says Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. In accordance with California state law, such “delay notices” must specify the expected duration of the delay and an offer of a refund, upon request, among other things.

Fashion Nova allegedly failed to abide by the law on both accounts, according to the District Attorneys’ complaint, neither shipping orders within the mandated window nor providing consumers with the appropriate delay notices for a period of time that continued through “at least through April 2018.”

More than that, the 13-year old company, which is known for its high turnover of inexpensive, trendy garments and accessories (sometimes as soon as mere hours after a look has been worn by a celebrity), allegedly failed to adequately disclose its return policy on its website, where a majority of its sales occurred, which is also required by law, according to the District Attorneys’ filing.

Such breaches of California state law landed an already-embattled Fashion Nova – which came under fire this week as a result of a New York Times expose detailing the workings of the Los Angeles-based contractors enlisted to manufacture its affordable wares are being paid as little as $2.77 per hour – thereby landing itself on the receiving end of litigation.

“These types of consumer protection laws in California are on the books to make sure retailers treat their customers in an equitable and professional manner,” O’Malley said on Thursday. “When consumers place an order over the Internet, they are entitled to receive the items promptly or get a legally adequate explanation why they haven’t.”

Napa County Deputy District Attorney Katy Yount, echoed this notion, stating, “Online shoppers should feel confident that the retailers with whom they do business will deliver what they promise when they promise, within the bounds of California law.” She noted the District Attorneys’ “consumer protection action not only ensures that, but also protects retailers who expend time and money to play by the rules.”

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Fashion Nova swiftly settled the case with the state officials, agreeing to pay up and to “make changes in its business practices,” according to the Los Angeles County’s District Attorney’s Office. Still yet, as a result of the settlement, which was approved by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Desautels on Thursday, Fashion Nova is prevented from engaging in future legal missteps when it comes to the shipping of its products in the state.

As for Fashion Nova, a spokesman for the company said that “as an innovator and leader, we constantly strive to elevate our customers’ experience and similarly rectify any mistakes as quickly as possible,” noting that the “allegations at play date back to more than 18 months ago and were immediately addressed.”

Rihanna is currently embroiled in one less lawsuit thanks to a new settlement. Almost three months after Fenty Corp. was sued by Eva’s Photography, Inc. for copyright infringement after posting a photo of model Gigi Hadid in the corseted dark denim jacket from its first collection, Rihanna’s Fenty Corp. has agreed to settle the case in lieu of filing a formal answer or motion to dismiss in connection with the New York-based professional photography company’s case.

According to the docket for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, counsel for Eva’s Photography filed a Notice of Settlement this week, indicating that the parties have managed to come to a swift resolution to the case out of court and long before trial. Eva’s Photography initiated the case against Fenty on October 1, alleging that Rihanna’s corporate entity infringed its copyright in a photo of Hadid by posting it on the Instagram account of the musician-slash-fashion/beauty mogul’s Paris-based fashion brand.

In doing so, Eva’s Photography claimed that Fenty ran afoul of its exclusive right to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and/or use the photo, and/or authorize others to do the same – in a “willful, intentional, and purposeful” manner and “in disregard of and indifference to [Eva’s] rights” as the copyright holder. As such, the photo agency asserted that it was “entitled to statutory damages up to $150,000 per work infringed for [Fenty’s] willful infringement of the photo.”

The terms of the parties’ settlement are confidential.

With that case out of the picture, Rihanna is, nonetheless, still in the midst of the $75 million lawsuit that she filed against her father for allegedly using their family surname to “solicit millions of dollars from unsuspecting third parties.” According to the complaint that Rihanna filed against her dad Ronald Fenty, his business partner, Moses Joktan Perkins, and their company Fenty Entertainment, LLC in a California federal court in January, the two men are on the hook for “fraudulently misrepresent[ing] to third parties and the public that their company, Fenty Entertainment is affiliated with Rihanna, and has the authority to act on her behalf.”

While Fenty Entertainment may sound like a legitimate venture, that could not be further from the truth, the multi-hyphenate Grammy winner claims in the suit. In reality, 31-year old Rihanna – born Robyn Rihanna Fenty – claims that she is not in any way affiliated with the barely 2-year old Fenty Entertainment venture, nor did she authorize Mr. Fenty and Perkins to engage in what she says are “fraudulent” business deals on her behalf.

Rihanna – who is suing in her personal capacity, along with two of her affiliated companies, Roraj Trade LLC and Combermere Entertainment Properties – is seeking injunctive relief to keep the defendants from piggybacking on her name for their benefit. She has also demanded monetary damages to the tune of approximately $75 million in connection with her claims of federal trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and false advertising, among other federal and California state law claims.

That was has been making its way towards trial, which is scheduled for late June 2020 has been estimated by the court to  last for 3-4 days. That is, unless, the parties settle before then.

Consumers are urging the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to re-think its proposed settlement with Sunday Riley after the beauty brand was accused of enlisting its employees to obscure their real identities and “write fake reviews [about its products] on Sephora.com” for the sole purpose of enticing consumers to purchase its skincare goods. In connection with the 30-day public comment period that comes with the parties’ not-yet-finalized settlement, consumers are calling the FTC’s terms “disgusting,” “deeply disappointing,” and lacking in “actual consequences.”

At the heart of the settlement, which was announced last month, is a requirement that Houston, Texas-based Sunday Riley refrain from “misrepresenting the status of any endorser or person reviewing [its] products” and from “making any representation about any consumer or other product endorser without clearly and conspicuously disclosing any unexpected material connection between the endorser and any respondent or entity affiliated with the product.”

The ban on posting fake or misleading reviews makes sense given that the buzzy skincare startup Sunday Riley came under fire and attracted federal scrutiny after a former employee revealed last year – by way of a detailed email from Sunday Riley’s eponymous founder – that the company’s managers, as directed by its founder, required employees to post fake reviews endorsing the brand’s products.

In the July 2016 email that Ms. Riley allegedly wrote to her staff, she provided “step-by-step instructions for setting up new personas,” including how to “use a VPN to hide [an individual’s] identity,” and directed them to “create three accounts on Sephora.com, registered as different identities.” The email “directed employees to focus on certain products,” to “[a]lways leave 5 stars” when reviewing Sunday Riley Skincare products, and to “dislike” negative reviews. “If you see a negative review – DISLIKE it,” Ms. Riley wrote, “After enough dislikes, it is removed. This directly translates into sales!!”

According to the FTC, which initiated a formal investigation into the company last year after the email was leaked, such actions by the company’s founder and employees give rise to two violations of the FTC Act, according to the government agency, including: 1) making false or misleading claims that the fake reviews reflected the opinions of ordinary users of the products; and 2) deceptively failing to disclose that the reviews were written by Ms. Riley or her employees.

Following the FTC’s investigation, the government agency and the beauty company reached a proposed consent order on October 21, with three of the Commissioners voting in favor, while two dissented. The latter two Commissioners found the settlement in its current form simply is not strong enough, largely because it “includes no redress, no disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, no notice to consumers, and no admission of wrongdoing.”

In other words, dissenting Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Kelly Slaughter argue that “Sunday Riley and its CEO have clearly broken the law, and the Commission has [only] ordered that they not break the law again,” since the proposed settlement fails to impose any monetary penalties on the company to deter such “blatant fraud and dishonesty” in the future. While “monetary relief can be difficult to calculate,” the Commissioners assert, that “should not deter the FTC from seeking it.”

The proposed settlement order can only be finalized after a 30-day comment period after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed settlement final or not. In connection with the window for public comments, consumers – most of whom are anonymous – have chided the FTC for its “slap on the wrist” settlement.

“The FTC is doing an inadequate job of enforcing the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits ‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce,’” wrote one commenter, while another – which urged the FTC to levy an “appropriate but considerable fine to stop the company, and entire skincare industry, from deceiving consumers” – stated that “companies won’t change unless it affects their bottom line.”

From a practical standpoint, many comments made mention of the fact that “average customers’ purchases are guided by the reviews,” and that “honest and unbiased online product reviews are crucial to helping consumer wade through the 1000s of [product] options,” which – if left remedied – “takes advantage” of consumers.

One commenter suggested that the FTC require “a public admission of guilt” from Sunday Riley, which, to date, has neither “admitted or denied wrongdoing,” in addition to implement a monetary penalty and ensuring that Sunday Riley engages in “an ongoing remediation plan via hire of a compliance officer/auditor.”

Ultimately, all of the comments share the same general sentiment: the proposed settlement as it stands simply is not enough. The FTC is expected to formalize the outcome this week.

Jay-Z and Iconix Brand Group have settle a web of until-recently ongoing legal battles, ones that centered on a $200 million-plus licensing deal that the American brand management company and Shawn Carter – better known as Jay Z – entered into in 2007. In a filing on Wednesday, Iconix – whose roster of brands includes Mossimo, Mudd Jeans, Joe Boxer, Ecko, and Madonna’s Material Girl collection, among others – revealed that the parties had managed to resolve their claims.

Wednesday’s filing comes more than two years after Iconic first filed suit against Jay Z’s Roc Nation, Jay Z, himself, and Major League Baseball Properties, among others, alleging that by selling “Roc Nation” baseball caps, they were running afoul of the 2007 licensing agreement in which Roc Nation granted Iconix exclusive rights to manufacture and sell specific types of goods bearing the name (and other intellectual property rights) of Rocawear – the apparel brand that Jay Z launched in 1999 alongside Dame Dash – on an array of products.

The Roc Nation-emblazoned hats fell within the scope of the parties’ licensing deal, Iconix argued in its complaint, and thus, by selling the hats, “Carter and his various companies … have deliberately undermined a series of agreements, after receiving millions in substantial compensation from Plaintiffs, by continuing to use and exploit in business the very property already conveyed to Iconix and Studio IP by contract.”

Jay Z and co. responded to the suit in October 2017 by filing claims of their own, asserting that Iconix was on the hook for breaching an implied license between the two sides. In particular, Roca Wear alleged that the parties’ 2007 licensing deal did not give Iconix the right to use the Roca Nation name, and thus, that was left with Roca Wear and Jay Z.

Not only does the settlement put that case to bed, it also brings an end to an arbitration related to the licensing deal, proceedings that Jay Z sued to halt in November 2018, arguing that by failing to offer up a sufficient number of African-American arbitrators, the alternative handling of the parties’ ongoing dispute was running afoul of New York State law.

Less than a year later after Jay Z slammed the American Arbitration Association for its “blatant failure to ensure a diverse slate of arbitrators,” the rapper-turned-business mogul filed suit against Iconix in a New York state court in Manhattan, alleging that the licensing company had engaged in “massive years-long fraud” and “colossal accounting scandal.’” To be exact, in the July 2019 complaint, Jay Z and Rocawear accused Iconix of inflating its financials in connection with a subsequent Roca Wear licensing deal that they entered into in 2013.

All the while, in December 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission initiated an investigation into “potential violations of the federal securities laws” related to the deal between Rocawear and Iconix and the subsequent financial reporting of New York-based Iconix, including Iconix’s subsequent write-off of $169 million of the $204 million it put up for the Rocawear license.

Iconix stated in its filing on Wednesday both sides also agreed to drop all claims, and revealed that it has agreed to sell some of its rights in Rocawear back to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation LLC in exchange for $15 million.