Dr. Martens Sues Three Fast-Fashion Retailers for Allegedly Copying Its Shoes

Dr. Martens maker AirWair International Ltd. is suing three fast-fashion retailers, alleging repeated infringement on its copyrights over the course of three years.

Last week in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, the London-based company filed a lawsuit against BooHoo Group Inc., Nasty Gal Ltd. and PrettyLittleThing.com Ltd. for trademark infringement and unfair competition over the designs of several of Dr. Martens’ shoes, including its signature 1460 boots and the newer “Jadon” silhouette.

An exhibit in Dr. Martens' lawsuit against BooHoo.
An exhibit in Dr. Martens’ lawsuit against BooHoo.
CREDIT: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

“By copying AirWair’s registered trade dress, the defendants in this lawsuit have been trading on the goodwill and reputation that AirWair spent decades developing,” the company wrote. “Indeed, it is [the] defendants’ apparent business model to copy the distinctive look of other brands rather than invest in creating something new and unique.”

Among the brand’s most recognized styles is the 1460 boot, which features a two-toned grooved sole edge, yellow stitching in the welt area of the sole and a black fabric heel loop.

In the complaint, AirWair accused BooHoo, Nasty Gal and PLT of knocking off its styles as early as 2016. The following year, the company sent cease-and-desist letters to all three retailers. However, it also claimed a breach of contract by PLT, with which it entered into a confidential settlement agreement to avoid litigation.

An exhibit in Dr. Martens' lawsuit against Nasty Gal.
An exhibit in Dr. Martens’ lawsuit against Nasty Gal.
CREDIT: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

AirWair described the fast-fashion players’ actions as an “exceptional case” of infringement “because [the] defendants knowingly and intentionally used the Dr. Martens trade dress and intentionally sold copy footwear with the intent to confuse consumers.”

The company is seeking injunctive relief and statutory damages of no more than $1 million per alleged counterfeit product offered for sale. It also demanded a jury trial.

An exhibit in Dr. Martens' lawsuit against Pretty Little Thing.
An exhibit in Dr. Martens’ lawsuit against Pretty Little Thing.
CREDIT: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

BooHoo, Nasty Gal and PLT “have copied the Dr. Martens trade dress — and the overall style and configuration of Dr. Martens boots and shoes — in a deliberate and calculated attempt to trade upon the popularity and distinctive appearance and design of Dr. Martens footwear,” it wrote in the suit. “Unless restrained and enjoined, [the] defendants will continue to engage in the acts complained of and irreparably damage AirWair.”

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