Monday, April 25, 2011

J.Crew Getting Sued Over Design

"Thanks!" to many of you, including Jessica & Nicole, who shared the following news: J.Crew is being sued for naming its "Duquette Leopard Print Sweater" after Tony Duquette.

The following story is from WWD (click here to read in its entirety):
Tony Duquette Sues J. Crew Over Cardigan Print
By Alexandra Steigrad
April 25, 2011

A leopard might not be able to change its spots, but an interior design firm believes those spots can be trademarked.

Design firm Tony Duquette Inc. last week slapped J.Crew Group Inc. with a lawsuit that alleges the retailer’s leopard-print cardigan infringed its trademarks and constituted unfair competition.

Beverly Hills, Calif.-based TDI, which holds the intellectual property rights of the late designer and artist Tony Duquette, claims in its suit, filed in the Southern District of New York, that J.Crew promoted and sold its women’s “Duquette Leopard Print Sweater” without permission.

The complaint alleges that the plaintiff’s marks are now connected to J.Crew’s product at retail, in advertising and in more than 150,000 online searches from various search engines.

In the Fifties, Duquette began creating and using leopard print designs for fabric, wallpaper, carpet, clothing and furniture. As a result, the print became a “signature theme” of his designs and “still remains such a defining and recurring element” in his history, according to the court papers submitted by TDI.

After Duquette’s death in 1999, business partner and designer Hutton Wilkinson, who is also named as a plaintiff in the suit, took the helm at TDI and has continued to design, license, promote and market the late designer’s work.

“We filed this claim to ensure our trademarks are used appropriately and only with our permission,” said Wilkinson, president and creative director of the firm.

Calls to J.Crew seeking comment were not immediately returned by press time. TDI is looking for injunctive relief, damages, attorneys’ fees and other costs.
The following are additional articles covering this story:
Interesting. It's clear J.Crew wanted to pay tribute to the Duquette name. But did they purposely use the Duquette trademark (and perhaps the print) without permission? That I don't know.

What are your thoughts on this news story? Is a leopard print just a leopard print -or- do you think there is a case of infringement on J.Crew's part here? Please share!


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  2. Seems the only complaint TDI can have is the use of "Duquette" in the product name, but not the leopard print itself since (to my knowledge) the particular print on the cardigan is not one that Duquette came up with. I can't blame TDI for complaining about J Crew using the Duquette name, apparently without permission. Maybe TDI is just miffed because it was a Factory item, not Collection. :)

  3. I'm no lawyer but the question of whether you can copyright leopard print makes me curious to learn the outcome. I've seen 100+ YO antique pieces with animal print designs so Duquette is not the first to have the idea, even if it was his signature pattern. I would expect that his name could not be used without permission if it is a registered trademark.

  4. Tsk, tsk. Borrowing from the boys and not asking first.

  5. Surely the lawsuit is regarding the name. J Crew needs a new legal team. They are inept at details.

  6. I want to see the product description. If they made it clear in the description that this was a cardigan that was in honor of Duquette, then it's not so clear that it was a trademark infringement. J Crew has named products after people before. I'm interested to know what attorneys think, the court that hears this case will likely simply rely on prior decisions. It's also interesting that TDI filed a lawsuit instead of simply requesting of J Crew that they rename the cardigan. Something is odd here.

  7. I think they were paying tribute to the fact that people associate leopard print with this company. I highly doubt they were trying to piggyback on its success or claim that the company endorsed their sweater. Still, I'm sure trademark issues are something they're well-versed in, and they should have known better. Tsk tsk.

  8. Tony is not the only Duquette, they didn't use his full name and they certainly do not hold any copyright or trademark on leopard patterns. I am not an attorney but have been a witness for "trade dress" design litigation--always difficult to prove. I see referential item names in all fashion brands these days so this will be interesting.

  9. Minutes from now, an angry Leopard will decide to sue Tony Duquette.


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