British luxury fashion house Burberry Group is suing Target Corp. for allegedly copying Burberry's venerable check print pattern.
According to the suit, filed in the Southern District of New York last week, Burberry is accusing Target for selling products — ranging from scarves, eyewear, luggage and stainless-steel bottles — that have "close imitations or counterfeits of the Burberry check trademark."
"Although Target's copycat scarves are of inferior quality, they are superficially indistinguishable from genuine Burberry scarves," the complaint reads.
The company said it issued a cease-and-desist letter to Target in early 2017 but that the Minneapolis-based retailer has continued to sell the products.
Burberry argues that the close similarities between the products has led to confused customers who believe that Target's offerings are affiliated with or endorsed by it. The company points to Target's history of collaborating with popular brands and fashion designers — like Hunter Boot Ltd. or Lilly Pulitzer — to promote its Target-exclusive collections.
"At Target, we have great respect for design rights," a statement from a Target spokesperson said. "We are aware of the filing by Burberry and hope to address the matter in a reasonable manner."
The suit includes side-by-side images of Burberry products and Target's eyewear, luggage and bottles that the company said feature its pattern.
Burberry is seeking an injunction stopping Target from selling the products with the patterns and relief of up to $2 million for each trademark Target has counterfeited, as well as attorney fees.
Knockoffs are a longstanding part of fashion industry and are often hard to block, as the perpetrators are often offshore manufacturers. Copyright and trademark protections also often don't extend to fashion design, though there are exceptions: Shoemaker Christian Louboutin has won trademark protection for its red soles in the United States (though it was just dealt a setback in Europe).
Burberry is clearly seeking that level of protection for its check print, which has been around for decades. Fashion industry news publication Fashionista points out that the company sued J.C. Penney in 2016 and Body Glove in 2010.
And Target has been the subject of similar complaints from other fashion brands in the past, including handbag maker Coach and Minnetonka Moccasins. Both of those cases were resolved quietly without a trial.
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