Red faces at Victoria’s Secret over Pink court case


Victoria's Secret has lost a U.K. court battle with high-end London shirt-maker after a judge ruled that consumers looking for office-wear could be confused by the lingerie brand PINK's "sexy, mass market appeal".

Thomas Pink, which is owned by LVMH and has a U.K. chain of stores, launched legal proceedings against Victoria's Secret last year after the underwear company opened a shop in London's famous Bond Street.

Victoria's Secret had normally sold its PINK clothing line - which consists of loungewear and lingerie aimed at a younger audience – within its main stores. But the company opened a standalone shop with the PINK on the front.

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Thomas Pink argued that this infringed its trademark and judge Colin Briss agreed, suggesting that shoppers could get confused between the brands.

"Consumers are likely to enter one of the claimant's shops looking for lingerie and be surprised and disappointed when they find they have made a mistake," Briss' written judgement said.

Victoria's Secret PINK Model Sara Sampaio host PINK Nation Spring Break Beach Party on March 13, 2014 in Destin, Florida.
Getty Images

The judge also added that Thomas Pink's "luxurious" standing could be reduced.

"The defendant's (Victoria's Secret) business aims to have a sexy, mass market appeal. The link between the CTM (community trademark) and the defendant's PINK brand will cause consumers to associate the two. The claimant's trade mark will be associated with a mass market offering, reducing its luxurious reputation," the written judgement said.

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A community trademark is a trademark which has been registered across the 28 nations of the European Union, meaning that any action following the case would apply across the whole of the bloc.

Victoria's Secret faces the choice of phasing out its PINK clothing line across Europe, or appealing, according to one lawyer.

"It depends or not if they give in. If they accept the judgement of the High Court then they would have to withdraw their product during an agreed phase-out period. Or Victoria's Secret could appeal," Carrollanne Lindley, trademark attorney at Kilburn and Strode, told CNBC in a phone interview.

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Victoria's Secret was not available for comment.

Thomas Pink said it was "delighted" with the result.

"We are delighted with the outcome of this case, and will continue to protect the considerable investment that has been made into building Thomas Pink into a leading luxury clothing brand," Jonathan Heilbron, CEO of Thomas Pink, said in a statement.

At the moment, Thomas Pink has no plans to pursue the case in other territories -- including the U.S..

- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal