The Battle of the Stripes

Forever 21 is in a legal battle over stripes with both Gucci and Adidas. 

The “battle of the stripes” began when Gucci filed a lawsuit against Forever 21, after an influx of cease-and-desist letters, for allegedly copying Gucci’s trademarked blue and red, and red and green stripes. Gucci filed suit after the fast-fashion brand went to court to get protection for being litigated against by Gucci, claiming that the luxury label “should not be allowed to claim that Gucci, alone, has a monopoly” over these types of stripes. To prove that Forever 21 has infringed Gucci’s trademarks, Gucci would have to show that there is a high likelihood that consumers would mistakenly believe Forever 21’s products are Gucci products. Generally, high-fashion brands claim that this type of “copying” hurts sales and weakens the brand’s overall value in the luxury sphere. This is why brands like Gucci are willing to go far to protect their label.

The latest updates on this dispute show Gucci in the lead! A United States District Judge ruled in favor of Gucci by dismissing Forever 21’s original complaint for litigation protection from Gucci, due to lack of sufficiently of alleged facts! However, Forever 21 has permission to re-file so we’ll have to keep an eye out to see what happens next! 

The brand is also in some legal trouble with the major athletic retailer, Adidas. In this dispute, Forever 21 filed the first claim against Adidas because they were tired of having a dark cloud looming over their heads for fear of using stripes in their designs, and wanted to have a chance to be creative in what they produce. Forever 21 claimed that they have been made victims of “bullying” by Adidas since 2006. Then, in a turn of events, Adidas sued Forever 21 for “illegal use” of their three-stripe trademark on apparel similar to what Adidas regularly produces. This legal “battle of the stripes” has been going on for years now! 

Most recently, Adidas filed suit against Forever 21 for their use of the stripes and is currently leading this battle! The court has permanently enjoined Forever 21 from “importing, manufacturing, producing, advertising, displaying, distributing, offering for sale, or selling” the disputed apparel or any other apparel bearing the three-stripes, as well as any apparel bearing two-stripes or four-stripes. 

Now, lets ask ourselves…is Forever 21 really trying to pass off their products as Gucci or Adidas? We mentioned that Gucci had to show that Forever 21 consumers would mistakenly believe Forever 21’s products are Gucci products. But, how often could this really occur?  It isn’t realistic to believe that a $1500 Gucci sweater is being sold at Forever 21 for $16.99 just because they have similar stripes. Big labels like Gucci set the fashion trends for the upcoming seasons when they introduce their collections on the runway. Perhaps Forever 21 is just trying to bring affordable fashion to the masses who can’t afford to splurge on fancy luxury-label items. Doesn’t everyone deserve to look and feel good in their clothes? We think most fashionista’s would agree that fashion is for everyone! Forever 21 could just be trying to promote that idea and allow consumers to get trendy looks for reasonable prices. Furthermore, while we are against copying the overall design of any label, a monopoly over stripes may be a little excessive.

This is our third post from a series of posts from the 2018 Fashion Blog Competition at Southwestern Law School. This one is by runner-ups, Selineh Shahbazian and Nareh Arakelian.

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