Puma and Rihanna's Fenty are losing lawsuit against Forever21
A California court has refused to stop Forever21 from selling three alleged knockoffs from Rihanna's Fenty line, in Puma's lawsuit against Forever21 for patent, copyright and trade dress infringement.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this spring on March 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Puma alleged that Forever21 was selling three footwear styles that were direct infringements of designs in the Fenty line. The specific styles in question are the Creeper, the Bow Slide and the Fur Slide. The Forever21 versions are strikingly similar which comes as no surprise - Forever21 historically operates in the grey area of copying existing designs and reproducing them in the fast fashion arena.
At the time, Puma asked for a temporary injunction to prevent Forever 21 from interfering with the next launch date of Puma's shoes on April 7. However, U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez disagreed and denied the request, pointing out that Puma should have filed its lawsuit farther in advance, as a week was not sufficient.
In Puma's court pleadings, it noted "the extraordinary litigating history of [Forever 21], which raises the most serious question as to whether it is a business that is predicated in large measure on the systematic infringement of competitors’ intellectual property."
A declaration submitted by Puma's Global Director of Brand and Marketing Adam Petrick said, "Because there is a high demand for Puma’s Fenty Shoes, and especially in the period after a launch, knock-offs such as those sold by Forever 21 diminish the excitement following a Fenty shoe release because consumers can purchase the “same-looking product” at a lower cost."
Unfortunately for the brand, last Friday, Judge Gutierrez disagreed with Puma again and found that Puma had failed to submit enough evidence to be granted a preliminary injunction.
The presiding judge wrote that while Puma claims the presence of the 'knockoff' products on the market ‘diminishes the brand value for Puma’s consumers,’ and that ‘the prestige of the Puma brand is diminished,’ these statements are not tied to actual evidence, and constitute little more than "pronouncements that are grounded in platitudes rather than evidence."
While the designs in question would likely be removed from commerce in other countries with different protection, US law does not offer the same strength of protection of intellectual property that other countries offer.
The judge did leave the door open for Puma to continue pursuing financial relief in the form of monetary damages Puma can prove it has lost while the knockoffs are on the market.
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