Intellectual Property in the Fashion Industry: Famous Lawsuits

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Intellectual Property in the Fashion Industry: Famous Lawsuits

Did you know that legal battles around intellectual property shape the fashion industry in the same way that changing trends and consumer preferences do?

Recently, the fashion industry has seen many lawsuits that have drawn attention to the complex interplay between creativity, innovation, and legal protection.

These lawsuits have involved some of the biggest names in fashion and have raised important questions about intellectual property rights, brand integrity, and consumer trust.

In this article, we will explore five famous IP lawsuits in the fashion industry and address the impact they had on the market.

So, join us as we dive into these cases and examine their implications for the future of fashion.

1. 5 Famous Intellectual Property Lawsuits in the Fashion Industry

1. Adidas vs. Yeezy

In 2013, Adidas announced an upcoming collaboration with Kanye West’s Yeezy brand, sending waves through the fashion and sneaker industry.

However, right before the decade mark of their partnership, Kanye got embroiled in controversy.

Ye started using his social media channels to spread antisemitic remarks against Jewish people, even going as far as threatening violence.

Not wanting to be associated with this behavior, Adidas swiftly condemned Kanye's statements, emphasizing that they did not align with the company's values.

If you’re not familiar with this case, you might assume that Kanye decided to sue over this situation. However, you’d be wrong.

In fact, it was a group of investors that took Adidas to court over the breakup.

Allegations were that Adidas executives were familiar with Kanye’s explosive behavior and anticipated that something like this could happen.

If that was the case, they would be obliged by U.S. securities law to share their concerns with the shareholders.

Now, Adidas claims that the allegations fall short of securities fraud. It also claims that shareholders were aware of all the potential risks related to the Yeezy collaboration.

Whoever’s telling the truth, the fallout from the scandal has left Adidas with over $1 billion worth of unsold Yeezys.

This surplus raises a unique challenge for the company. Specifically, Adidas must now determine how to responsibly dispose of the excess inventory without damaging their brand - or violating intellectual property laws.

One possible solution is for Adidas to explore alternative distribution channels. This could mean selling the unsold Yeezys through discount retailers or online marketplaces.

However, this approach could potentially devalue the Yeezy brand and lead to further losses for Adidas.

Another option is for Adidas to consider repurposing the unsold Yeezys e.g., for charitable purposes.

This, on the other hand, wouldn’t address the larger issue of how Adidas can recover from the reputational damage caused by their association with Kanye's controversial statements.

2. Zara (Inditex) vs. Ffauf Italia

When it comes to fashion trademarks, few are as recognizable to common people as Zara's.

This Spanish fashion giant, owned by Inditex, has built a global empire on its distinctive branding.

However, even a powerhouse like Zara can find itself embroiled in intellectual property disputes, as was the case with Ffauf Italia.

This Italian food producer opposed the trademark application for the word “Zara” as a European Union trademark for goods and services in the following Classes:

- 29: Food Products

- 30: Staple Foods

- 31: Raw and Unprocessed Agricultural Products

- 32: Beers and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

- 35: Advertising and Business Services

- 43: Services for Providing Food and Drink; Temporary Accommodation.

What followed the opposition was a rather complex turn of events.

It included the partial upholding of Ffauf Italia’s opposition, then rejection of Inditex’s application altogether, and multiple appeals to the General Court – also made by Inditex.

In the end, Zara obtained trademark protection for fresh vegetables and fruit juices. However, its trademark application for other classes was denied to maintain clarity for consumers regarding brand associations.

3. Katy Perry vs Katie Jane Taylor

Katie Jane Taylor is an Australian fashion designer who owns a fashion brand named “Katie Perry”.

(We bet you already know where this one’s going!)

She and Katy Perry have been in court since 2009 over the use of their homophonous names, disputing who has the rights and financial benefits associated with similar brand names.

Recently, the court made a judgment in favor of the fashion designer. In the decision, the court found that Katy Perry infringed Katie Jane Taylor’s trademark during her Prismatic Tour in Australia.

Essentially, Katy Perry’s tour included pop-up stores in two Australian cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and these stores sold merchandise bearing the “Katy Perry” trademark.

Katy also promoted the merch on another company’s website and across social media platforms.

The epilogue of this intellectual property lawsuit?

Katy’s “Kitty Purry” firm owes damages to Taylor, due to the sale of clothing bearing the "Katy Perry" trademark during the tour. The judge also ruled that Katy doesn’t owe any compensation to the Australian designer, as that she used the mark in good faith.

4. Shein vs. Uniqlo

Anyone who’s ever bought a fast fashion piece (which is practically everyone!) has heard of Shein.

This fashion giant has become a go-to for those looking for the latest styles at unbeatable prices. But, it has also been in the spotlight for multiple instances of allegedly copying other designers' designs.

One of them is Uniqlo.

Uniqlo is a Japanese retailer that gained popularity on TikTok for its 19$ crossbody bag, which is their best-selling item to date.

At the same time when Uniqlo’s popularity gained peak, Shein released a copycat version of the iconic crossbody bag. Oh, and it did so in a significantly worse quality.

This prompted Uniqlo to initiate a lawsuit against Shein, demanding an immediate stop to the production and sale of the copied bag. They also demanded over $1 million in damages for the infringement of their intellectual property rights.

While Shein yet has to respond to the allegations, and the details of this lawsuit are being kept under wraps, this case underscores the ongoing challenges faced by fast fashion brands regarding intellectual property rights and the importance of protecting original designs in the fashion industry.

Should Uniqlo succeed with the lawsuit, their success might encourage more brands to legally challenge copycat design, while making consumers more aware of the authenticity of the products they buy.

5. Tiffany vs. Costco

Back in 2013, Costco started selling a generic diamond engagement ring in their stores. This ring, as it turned out, bore a striking resemblance to Tiffany & Co.'s iconic engagement rings.

This led to a lawsuit filed by Tiffany & Co. against Costco, alleging trademark infringement and counterfeiting.

5 years later, a ruling was made in favor of Tiffany. It seemed that Costco had acted in bad faith by using the trademarked name to increase its sales.

However, in 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals in NYC overturned this decision, sending the case back to trial court. Specifically, they found that Costco’s customers were aware that the rings weren’t made by Tiffany and that the term “Tiffany” itself has become somewhat generic.

The outcome of this dispute is unknown since the two brands settled the dispute out of court in October 2021. But, it does shed light on the complexities of trademark law and the evolving nature of brand perception.

This case, much like the others, highlights the importance of protecting intellectual property rights. It alsorecognizes the nuances of consumer understanding and perception of brand names.


As you can see, the fashion industry is continually evolving. And, it is shaped by ongoing legal battles over intellectual property rights as much as it is by changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and global economic trends.

Lawsuits like these not only impact the companies involved but also influence consumer behavior and the perception of brand authenticity.

As brands strive to protect their designs and trademarks, consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of buying authentic products. This heightened awareness could transform consumer behavior, with more people choosing to support brands that prioritize originality and ethical practices.

That’s why we believe that, in the future, we may see increased scrutiny of fast fashion brands and a greater emphasis on the value of intellectual property in the fashion industry.

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