Burberry is out to defend its most recognizable asset: its signature check print.
The British fashion house filed a trademark infringement and counterfeiting lawsuit against Target last week in New York federal court, alleging that the retailer has been selling products that bear “blatant reproductions” of its trademark check, a print introduced in the 1920s and used on countless designs since.
According to the suit, Burberry sent Target a cease-and-desist letter in early 2017 after finding “unauthorized copies” of the pattern in the chain’s stores on items including eyewear, luggage and water bottles. Rather than complying with the letter, Burberry alleges, Target several months later began selling scarves — a Burberry mainstay — also bearing the check print, which were “superficially indistinguishable” from the real deal (albeit at a small fraction of the price).
The crux of the case is the potential for confusion — for instance, could Target shoppers see the products on shelves and believe that they were genuine Burberry items? The fashion house argues yes, particularly because of the big-box retailer’s history of collaborating with high-end designers. Beyond its most recent capsule collection with British heritage rainboot brand Hunter, Target has worked with designers including Prabal Gurung, Peter Pilotto and Rodarte over the years. The practice has lent luxury cachet to its affordable offerings but could potentially open it up to greater liability in the case of a trademark dispute with a similar high-fashion house.
“Target’s well-publicized history of collaborating with popular brands and fashion designers to promote and sell Target-exclusive limited-edition collections further heightens the risk of such consumer confusion,” the lawsuit contends.
Burberry is seeking $2 million for each alleged trademark infringement, plus fees, punitive damages and any profits stemming from the items’ sale.
The house has filed and settled similar cases out of court: in 2016 with J.C. Penney and in 2010 with TJX Cos., the company that operates TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods.
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