This morning, Susan Scadifi, director of Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute, along with the University’s Provost, Stephen Freedman, and Diane von Furstenberg, announced two new degree programs focused on fashion law at Fordham’s law school.
The first is an LL.M. in Fashion Law for practicing attorneys. This program will start in the fall and will feature courses in financing, modeling law, and licensing, amongst others. This program is designed to give lawyers practical lawyering skills that would apply to legal issues that affect the industry.
By Noura Alswailem [CC BY-SA 3.0] , via Wikimedia Commons
The other program is a Master of Studies in Law, which is for professionals who work within the industry, such as executives, designers and entrepreneurs. This will give industry professionals the opportunity to understand how different laws affect the industry, ranging from business and corporate issues to design issues.
Beverly Hills jeweler, Chris Aire, sued a whole host of fine jewelry and watches brands back in 2010 for trademark infringement over the use of the term “Red Gold.” One of the brands sued by Aire was LVMH’s Hublot. The legal battle between Hublot and Aire has gone through several levels of the judicial system.
The crux of Aire’s claim was that “Red Gold” was a signifier of Aire’s products and brands and that he in fact had exclusive right over the use of this term because he had federally trademarked the term.
Hublot attempted to dismiss the case through a motion of summary judgment, claiming that the trademark is generic. The lower court declined to dismiss the case and deemed that there were enough questions of fact that a jury needed to decide the outcome. Hublot then appealed this decision once again arguing that Aire has no exclusive rights over the term “Red Gold” because the term has become generic within the industry.
Michael Kors recently agreed to a settlement in the lawsuit brought against the company last July over deceptive pricing techniques. Tressa Gattinella claimed in her lawsuit that Michael Kors engaged in deceptive pricing practices in regards to the products sold in its outlet stores. In particular, Gattinella claimed that the brand created the illusion of a discount where there actually was none.
Michael Kors Spring/Summer 2014 Show. Image: Christopher Macsurak via flickr.com
For example, she purchased a pair of jeans that had a price tag stating that the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) was $120 but that the jeans were being sold for the low price of $79.99, leading Gattinella to believe that she was saving money. However, because the brand produces products specifically for its discount stores, by signifying a “discount” price, the brand is misleading its customers into thinking that they are purchasing products at a discount when in actuality they are not.
NastyGal, the trendy online retailer, has been sued by a former employee who is claiming that she was wrongfully terminated by the retailer for being pregnant.
In her complaint, Aimee Concepcion explains how she was recruited by NastyGal in late 2013 for the position of Buyer for the newly created Home Goods department within the company. During her interviews, Concepcion was told by the executives that her position is a “stable position.” Concepcion claims that during her time at the retailer, she receive “stellar performance review[s]” regarding her work and contributions to the company.
Around February of 2014, Concepcion found out she was pregnant and in April of that year, she informed her supervisors and asked for information on what maternity leave, and maternity benefits she was entitled to.
In her complaint, Concepcion alleges that her supervisors failed to inform her of all the rights and benefits she was entitled to under California law, and was told she was only entitled to 6-8 weeks of leave after she gives birth. Concepcion then became increasingly worried and upset about the lack of support she was receiving from her employers, but assumed that they were advising her properly on what her rights were.
On Friday, Alibaba Group Holding, an online retailer based in China, was sued in Manhattan federal court, by Kering luxury brands, including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. The brands argue that the retailer knowingly allowed counterfeiters to sell their products to consumers.
The Kering brands are alleging trademark infringement and racketeering and are seeking both monetary damages as well as an injunction preventing the future sale of these counterfeit products.
Alibaba Headquarters: By Thomas Lombard via Wikimedia Commons
In their lawsuit, the brands claim that Alibaba conspired with the counterfeiters to manufacture, sell and distribute products that infringe on the plaintiffs’ trademarks that confuse the consumer and lead the consumer to believe that the products are genuine luxury items.
This is the second time that Alibaba has been sued by Kering brands over counterfeit products. The brands filed a lawsuit in July of 2014, but withdrew it with the ability to refile if the two sides couldn’t come to a resolution of their issues. And, it seems they haven’t reached a resolution.
Catherine Malandrino filed suit recently against multiple defendants resulting from the sale of her namesake line. The lawsuit was filed against ASL Holdings, ASL Operations, Tahari ASL, Eli Tahari, Arthur S. Levine and Lester E. Schriber, as well as Bluestar Alliance and its founders and CM Brand Holdings.
In the lawsuit, Malandrino alleges seven causes of action ranging from breach of contract and tortious interference and the total amount of damages sought by the designer from all defendants is about $65 million.
image via catherinemalandrinousa.com
The lawsuit stems from the sale of the Catherine Malandrino line from ASL Holdings to the Tahari companies back in 2011. Malandrino claims that even though she found an investor who offered $12 million for line, she accepted Tahari and Levine’s offer of $6.59 million for her Black and Yellow labels, and all intellectual property rights associated with her brands.
Malandrino claims bad faith on the part of the defendants. She alleges that the focus should have been on her designer line, but the defendants created diffusion lines, Catherine Catherine Malandrino, or Pink label.
Though “fashion law” is an area of law that has always existed, its recent prominence within the legal field is bringing to light many issues that retailers and brands weren’t thinking about before. For example, a recent Corporate Governance Report by Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs discussed what legal issues may be affecting retailers and brands within the fashion industry in 2015.
The report highlighted 8 trends that brands should be aware of this year, ranging from the prominent unpaid internship class action lawsuits, to new regulations on employee social media policies.
One of the major trends the report discusses is the “Made in USA” litigation. Over the past year 8 brands and retailers were sued by consumers who alleged that these companies failed to adhere to California’s statute that prohibits companies from using a “Made in the USA” label unless every single element used in the creation of the piece was completely made in the USA.
The report discusses how most of these cases brought under this California statute in the past were settled. However, many of the lawsuits brought in 2014 will probably be decided this year. The defendants argue that the California statute is in conflict with the federal statute, which doesn’t require that every piece of the clothing be made in the USA to use the “Made in the USA” label, and to adhere to both statutes is burdensome and difficult.
Most of the lower courts have disagreed with this argument and have allowed the lawsuits to proceed. This shows that brands must be aware of the labeling they decide to use for the products they create, especially if they are doing business in California.
Mary Kay, the cosmetics giant, has sued RetailMeNot, an online source for shopping coupons, for trademark infringement. Mary Kay has argued in its complaint that RetailMeNot has been using it’s name without valid authorization.
Mary Kay believes that by offering coupons to consumers, RetailMeNot causes them to falsely assume that the coupon source is affiliated with the beauty brand, even though no relationship or affiliation exists between the two.
Mary Kay’s major point of difference with other cosmetic companies is that it sells its products through a network of independent beauty consultants. Mary Kay argues that the coupons are affecting its relationship with these consultants because they are pressured to accept coupons that aren’t offered by Mary Kay.
Because of this damage to the beauty brand’s business, Mary Kay asked the court for damages as well as an injunction preventing RetailMeNot from using its name.
Last year, Converse sued 31 brands and retailers for trademark infringement, claiming that these brands and retailers infringed on trademarks held by Converse for its well-known Chuck Taylor sneakers.
Converse also filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, who has been investigating the claims since November. Several of the brands, including Ralph Lauren, H&M, Zullily, and Tory Burch have settled their lawsuits with the brand. Each brand agreed to stop producing shoes that would infringe Converse’s trademarks, and pay an undisclosed amount in damages.
Converse Chuck Taylor Sneakers // via Sweet and Lonely
However, some brands are aren’t going down without a fight. New Balance, who was not one of the 31 brands sued, filed a motion for declaratory judgment, asking the court to deem Converse’s trademarks invalid in a bid to preempt any litigation from Converse.
Wal-Mart has also vowed to fight Converse’s claims. Wal-Mart filed a response with the ITC claiming that Converse’s complaint is simply trying to “extort monetary settlements” from the brands it has sued.
Last week, former Condé Nast interns received a notice from the publishing giants informing them that they can now file the legal forms to claim their portion of the settlement reached last April.
The settlement governs a case where a former unpaid intern claimed that Condé Nast owed her wages for the work she performed. The suit was certified as a class action and covers a reported 7500 former interns.
The case was settled last year for $5.9 million and also led the publishing house to terminate its internship program, a move that sent waves through the industry as many wondered how the Condeé Nast publications would survive without interns and many up-and-comers lamented at their chance to work for the revered publishing house being taken away.
Former interns who worked for Condé Nast between June 13, 2007, and Dec. 29, 2014 are eligible to receive a settlement. The amounts they will receive will vary based on whether the type of internship they had (closet vs. regular) and the time of year they interned (summer vs. school year).