Parody T-Shirts and Lawsuits

10:04 AM

I am sure that you have seen these shirts once or twice splattered all over social media. Seems like a bunch of folks are creating a brand by piggy backing off of a bigger brand. But if these brands aren't careful they could end up in a legal bind.  Many of these "companies" are not legit businesses but what if your piggy backing shoves you in the spotlight and then further pushes you into the courtroom?

Here is something I recently read abut the "Aint Laurent" parody top over at The Fashion Law

Yves Saint Laurent has settled the lawsuit it filed against “parody” t-shirt company, What About Yves. You may recall that YSL filed suit against the company and its founder, Jeanine Heller, this past April for manufacturing and selling t-shirts and sweatshirts that read, Ain’t Laurent Without Yves. The Paris-based company, which dropped the “Yves” from the name of its revamped ready-to-wear collection in 2012 when creative director Hedi Slimane came on board, alleged claims of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false designation of origin, and unfair competition.
Things got interesting when after YSL sent Heller a number of letters alerting her of such intellectual property charges. According to YSL’s complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of New York court, after a number of letters that YSL sent Heller on the matter went unanswered, Heller finally reached out to the design house's counsel, denied any wrongdoing, and offered to sell her Ain't Laurent Without Yves trademark to them. (Yes, Heller filed to federally register the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office but was ultimately rejected due to its similarity to a number of existing trademarks belonging to YSL). All the while, Heller continued to sell the allegedly infringing t-shirts to retailers including famed Paris boutique, Colette, with which YSL ultimately cut ties as a result of its stocking of the t-shirt.
After settling a similar lawsuit with Chanel this past year (even though the shirts at issue in that case are still available for sale on the What About Yves website), Heller settled the case with YSL earlier this month. According to the docket for the Southern District of New York court, the case was voluntarily dismissed on January 12th, and while it appears that Heller agreed to remove the YSL tees, there is no word on what the monetary component of the settlement is.

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