This week in fashion law: Sitch sued over "couture" line, Kris Jenner sued over facelift, Oprah sued over inspirational phrase
And now, as much as it pains me to write about anything Jersey Shore-related, this week in fashion law...
The Situation Situation
Well, the owners of Dilligaf USA got what they asked for. After signing a contract with Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino to jointly launch a clothing line that would embody their shared "'let's not take things so seriously' mentality," Dilligaf soon grew dismayed by... Sitch's failure to take things seriously. According to a complaint recently filed in Florida state court, Sitch breached th e parties' agreement by neglecting to promote the products or appear at photo shoots, and by teaming up with Dilligaf's competitors. As a result, the company allegedly suffered lost profits on, in the words of Dilligaf's website, a promising "couture line." Now that's some serious semantic drift.
Apparently untroubled by Sitch's pattern of getting sued by former business partners, FLOW Formal inked a deal with him this week to sell tuxedos, of all things. Perhaps most surprisingly, FLOW's CEO was quoted in the New York Daily News as saying he is a "fan" of Sorrentino's. I can only assume there's been some semantic drift here as well.
But the award for the most ridiculous lawsuit of the
week month year-to-date goes to one Kris Jenner, better known as the mother of the Kardashian clan. This week, Jenner was sued by B&P Company, which owns Frownies, a cosmetics company that hired Jenner to promote its anti-aging products. The claim: the defendant breached the parties' contract by opting for an alternative method of turning back time -- a widely publicized facelift -- that effectively served as an endorsement of a competing rejuvenation technique. The company is seeking $2 million, including punitive damages, which it will never, ever, ever get. Jenner, taking a page from the John Galliano legal playbook, invoked the little-known "Neck Skin" defense -- i.e., the operation didn't affect the face that Frownies planned to fix chemically, only the neck that its creams were powerless to tighten up.
You Don't "Own Your Power"
There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding about the scope of trademark rights. A so-called "word mark" is not the linguistic equivalent of a deed to a plot of land: it doesn't grant you a monopoly on any and all uses of a particular phrase. What it does give you is the right to prevent others from using similar marks in a manner that is likely to confuse the relevant consumers about the source of goods or services.
A New Jersey woman named Simone Kelly Brown apparently suffers from this misconception. She sued Oprah (Oprah! Who sues Oprah? That's like suing the Pope!) this week for allegedly infringing Brown's "Own Your Power" mark by, yes, urging fans to "own their power." Brown claims that Oprah's message of self-empowerment shows "brazenly unlawful disregard" for the plaintiff's rights. Ms. Brown: just to be consistent, be sure you never answer a question with the phrase "Yes, We Can," ask someone to help "Save the Earth," or express a desire to "Live Comfortably" -- especially this last one, because it's going to be damn uncomfortable when Oprah pwns your power.
And So It Birkins Again...
Thursday Friday (of the famously litigated "Together Bag," a $35 tote bearing the image of a $6000 Birkin bag) must like hanging out in courthouses. That's the only possible explanation for the company's recent release of the latest in its Together Bag series, which features an image of Miu Miu's $1750 "Hobo" bag. Thursday Friday's lawyers undoubtedly told their client that the best way to deflect charges of trademark infringement for its cute bag-on-a-bag technique was to claim that it served as a biting social critique; hell, maybe Thursday Friday has even been saying that its brand is about "consumerism, class, and iconography" all along. But that line of argument is significantly less credible when a company goes from critiquing one expensive bag to the next -- especially since the Hobo bag isn't the quintessential status symbol the Birkin was. If anyone has nailed irony here, it's Miu Miu, for naming a $1750 bag after "homeless vagabonds." Not cool. But ironic.
And Other Stuff
• The networks behind Project Runway have been sued for allegedly using a handful of photos without permission. When informed of the lawsuit, network execs expressed surprise that the show was still on the air.
• On Friday, singer Nicki Minaj had a classic "wardrobe malfunction" that made us all nostalgic for the good old pre-end of the world days -- specifically, those halcyon days of 2004, when the U.S. enjoyed a triple-A credit rating and Justin Timberlake enjoyed ripping Janet Jackson's shirt off. What's truly amazing is that the legal battle between the FCC and CBS that resulted from Jackson's Nipplegate is still going on. That's, like, longer than Nicki Minaj has been alive.
• Speaking of which, what do high school students do (at least on TV) when they need to get out of a bad situation, fast? They pull the fire alarm, of course! What's the grownup equivalent? Issuing a product recall for fire safety one day after a staid luxury brand's founder is revealed to be an occasionally lesbianic, opium-smoking Nazi sympathizer.
• And lest I forget... in the case that started off fascinating but has since grown tiresome for all involved, Louboutin and YSL have made their final arguments to the court in letter form. Louboutin boasted to the press about the minor win of persuading the judge to ignore some exhibits submitted with YSL's letter, but this is like congratulating yourself for just beating the light to cross the street, only to get hit by a bus when you turn to cross the avenue. At the end of the day, you're still dead.
[This post is for entertainment and informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship among any individuals or entities. Any views expressed herein are those of the writer on the particular date of this post, and should not necessarily be attributed to his law firm or its clients.]