In the fashion industry it seems that we can never get away from a new trademark infringement case. The most recent news comes from Burberry’s claim that Target has infringed the trademark of their check design. According to Burberry, Target has been selling fashion items of “inferior quality”, while using patterns identical to their trademark. Take a look at a comparison between the scarves that each brand has been selling:
Target has ignored the cease-and-desist letter that Burberry sent them in 2017 and has continued to market and sell these products. In this legal battle, Burberry’s goal is to prevent Target from selling these products and collect damages for the alleged infringements.
The brand has been using their iconic check design since the 1920s. As a luxury brand, they have worked to establish their reputation with high quality garments, marked with this very design. Target’s continual use of the pattern seems to be a blatant appropriation of Burberry’s intellectual property. Actions like this in the industry indicate that companies are willing to inappropriately use legally protected trademarks in fashion in order to help advance their own brand. The fact that the products are so similar may confuse customers on whether the items sold at Target are genuinely made by Burberry. A negative experience with lower quality goods at Target may then lead consumers to believe that Burberry does not produce high quality goods.
An interesting aspect to this battle, as highlighted by Burberry, is that a trend in the past has been for designer brands to do mass market collaborations. This makes it even more likely for consumers to believe that Burberry may have done a collaboration with Target to sell certain collections. For example, in the past Target has collaborated with luxury brands such as Victoria Beckham and Phillip Lam.
So what has Target said in response to all of these claims? Target has exclusively shared with The Fashion Law that they have “great respect for design rights” and that they “hope to address the matter in a reasonable manner.”
While the politically correct answer to any lawsuit is respectable, we realize that Target’s sale of these items creates some controversy in the industry. Not only is it a sign of disrespect of Burberry’s work to establish and protect their brand, but it is also a blatant disregard of the law. Target’s actions also put consumers in a precarious position. There may be customers who enjoy Burberry’s designs, yet they may not be able to afford a $430 scarf. So instead, they may buy the next best thing, which is Target’s identical version for $12.99. This undermines the system of protecting trademarks and we hope that the resolution will aim to correct the imbalance Target’s actions have caused.