CATWALK JUSTICE: WTForever21 Is Back Online

After doing my first fashion law roundup last Friday, I decided I kind of like the format. Styleite decided it kind of liked the format, too. So this week, we’re trying an experiment: this writer, one Charles Colman of Charles Colman Law, PLLC, will brief Styleite readers on the more colorful happenings in fashion law over the past week. Let us know what you think (unless you don’t like it, in which case, you can just go ahead and leave for vacation.)

• In the most important fashion law dispute, well, ever, Rachel Kane of WTForever21 announced that she would resume blogging about Forever 21’s “design disasters” despite the retailer’s legally baseless threats about the blog’s supposed trademark and copyright transgressions. Admittedly, I may not be completely objective here, as my firm is representing Kane in this dispute; fortunately, the entire Internet appears to agree that Forever 21 has no ground to stand on here. As far as what we lawyers call “doctrine,” Rachel’s use of Forever 21’s website images to critique the company’s fashion missteps is clearly fair use under copyright law; Forever 21’s trademark claims are frivolous for reasons too numerous to mention. Plus, just as a matter of common sense, if consumers can’t use company trademarks in their commentary, or borrow images of a company’s products in order to criticize them, it would be effectively impossible to express one’s opinion on the activities of any corporation. On a side note, as more than one media outlet has observed, there is unmistakable irony in the attempted vindication of (bogus) intellectual property rights by a company that had been called “notorious for ripping off designs.” By the way, if you get a threat from a big, scary corporation for your “gripe site,” head here first; unfortunately, this situation is more common than one would hope.

• Despite the bone I had to pick with Lady Gaga in April, I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for the CFDA-declared “fashion icon,” who has now been besieged by no fewer than three very public accusations of both tangible and intangible theft. At the risk of pissing off my gracious host, I must take issue with Styleite writer Chloe Marmet‘s assertion that Gaga “almost had a right to” the Tumblr account “Amen Fashion” because “it was her song title, after all.” As I explained in my dressing-down of the already barely-dressed Ke$ha last month for her ridiculous legal threats against the manufacturer of the iPod Nano accessory marketed as “Tik Tok,” trademark claims based on song titles can be a very tough sell.

Louis Vuitton and Burberry scored a highly publicized victory in a Canadian court this week against Vancouver- and Toronto-based fakeries (like bakeries, but cooking up counterfeit goods instead of snickerdoodles.) The judgment of $2.5 million (Canadian) in damages may be the largest such award of its kind in Canadian legal history, according to Ashlee Froese, an Ontario-based fashion lawyer whom I interviewed on my blog earlier this week.

• Finally, at opposite ends of the piety spectrum, Rihanna has been sued (again) for allegedly lifting copyrighted imagery to use in her music video for S&M, while The General Council of the Assemblies of God was awarded over $6 million in its suit against a website selling knockoff religious garb that infringed the trademark rights of the Pentecostal Christian ministry. For those still tethered to their desks so painfullly close to the now-imminent long weekend, you can read up on the legal issues in the Rihanna music video dispute here (from the first time around); as for the church lawsuit, I’m just going to say res ipsa loquitur — “the thing speaks for itself.” At least, that’s my final word on the subject for now, since my zipcar isn’t going to drive itself out of the city. Happy holiday weekend!

[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.]

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