Moschino F/W ’14 Collection: Trademark Infringement?

Jeremy Scott, the newly appointed creative director of Moschino, has always had a design aesthetic that is rather fun and eccentric, and he definitely applied that aesthetic to his Fall/Winter ’14 collection for Moschino at Milan Fashion Week. The collection featured a play on consumer culture with what seemed a parodical homage to Chanel’s classic styles, cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants, and food giants like McDonalds, Budweiser, and Fruit Loops.

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This collection, created quite the buzz in the fashion world because of its irreverence and commentary on consumerism. In fact, Moschino has already begun to sell on its website a capsule collection of the runway collection called Fast Fashion, featuring several of the McDonald’s inspired pieces. While these rather rambunctious pieces are not exactly my style, they are interesting to look at as they make you think about how much we are affected by consumerism in our own style choices. However, the question that remains from a legal standpoint is whether the pieces in this collection could be the basis for trademark infringement suits against Moschino?

Firstly, lets take a look at the use of logos and images used on some of the pieces. These include the dresses that were shown at the end of the runway show, the McDonalds’ inspired pieces, and the Spongebob Squarepants’ inspired pieces. The question here would be whether there is a trademark infringement of these brands’ logos and the look of their packaging in the case of the dresses. If the pieces displays the brands’ logos, then there would definitely be a case for trademark infringement. It is difficult to see whether there is any brand logo used on any of the dresses. In fact, the Hersheys dress has Moschino emblazoned across the dress where Hersheys would be.

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There also seems to be no use of the McDonalds’ name or logo. However, several of the McDonalds’ inspired pieces makes use of the Golden Arches converted into a stylized version purportedly representing the ‘M’ of Moschino rather than McDonalds. There could be an argument of trademark infringement because even thought the ‘M’ is not shown exactly like the Golden Arches, it is incredibly similar and rather reminiscent of the fast food chain’s symbol.

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The use of image of Spongebob Squarepants is an infringement of what is probably a protected image of the hugely popular Nickelodeon show. Use of the image would only be appropriate if Moschino had licensed the image. It is however, quite unlikely that this is true. As such use of this image is probably an infringement.

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Another basis for a claim for these pieces, would be trade dress infringement based on consumer confusion. This means if the consumer is confused about what company the product is coming from, there is an infringement. It is highly unlikely that consumers would believe that these pieces are pieces that the brands have created and are selling as Hersheys, Fruit Loops, Budweiser, McDonalds and Spongebob Squarepants are not really in the luxury fashion market. Similarly, many of the pieces have Moschino emblazoned on them, signifying the origin of the product. Therefore, it would seem unlikely that there is any trade dress infringement.

The pieces shown in the collection that are rather reminiscent of Chanel are a little more tricky. Chanel has no trademark protection over the iconic look of the quilted bag and suits that Chanel has become famous for creating. However, Chanel could also argue trade dress based on secondary meaning. This means that if Chanel has been able to create secondary meaning by creating in the mind of its consumers an association of the quilted bag and suit with the brand of Chanel, then they can protect these elements from being copied by other designers and brands. While the quilted suit and bag is synonymous with Chanel, many other brands have used the same elements in their designs and pieces. As such, it would be difficult for Chanel to prove secondary meaning.

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Finally, however, all of these brands could argue that this collection is detrimental to the worth of their brand. This is usually a claim for trademark dilution by blurring, which can only be brought if the mark is famous. The brands would have to prove that the power of their trademarks has been weakened by the infringer. That means that the Nickelodeon (for Spongebob), McDonalds, Budweiser, Hersheys, and so on would have to prove that the collection has hurt the worth of their brand.

Fashion is about the expression of our times. Oftentimes, designers use this as an opportunity for social commentary about what our society is valuing. Moschino could then use this argument against any claims of of infringement. This is called the parody defense. Moschino and Jeremy Scott would have to prove that the use of the marks on the pieces on the collection were social commentary on consumerism in our world today. Some evidence to support this defense could be the name of the capsule collection on the website, Fast Fashion. The name is a play on the term fast food and the term fast fashion, which is used to describe stores like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 which produce pieces quickly. It could be argued that naming the collection fast fashion is a commentary on the rabid consumerism of our society today.

Because this collection has just been shown last week, it is hard to gauge what effect it will have on these brands and what the brands’ response will be.

images courtesy of style.com

Beeta J.

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