What Does “Law” have to do with “Fashion”? A Lot.

Did you know Gucci and Forever 21 have beef? Nope, I’m not kidding. The fast fashion company, Forever 21 and the luxury brand, Gucci have been engaged in a legal battle since 2016. What could these companies be fighting over?

Stripes.

Gucci has a federal trademark on green-red-green stripes and blue-red-blue striped patterns. Forever 21 was selling merchandise with a similar striping pattern and Gucci pushed back at them for it with multiple cease and desist letters telling the retailer they needed to stop selling any merchandise with those stripe patterns on them. Forever 21 was not threatened by Gucci’s letters and in fact clapped back at the popular luxury brand by filing a lawsuit against them.

This is where is gets wild: Forever 21 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. They are asking the court to cancel at least nine different trademarks Gucci currently has the rights to. Forever 21 argues, “these designs should be freely available for use by anyone”. Since Forever 21 filed their lawsuit Gucci has tried to have the court dismiss the case, but Judge Fernando M. Olguin believes the case should be decided at trial. The case has yet to go to trial and the two fashion empires are still at war with each other.

What the heck does all of this mean? How does one acquire a trademark and what does that mean for that brand and others in the same field?

A trademark is defined as a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product by dictionary.com. A trademark is obtained legally as intellectual property of that company that cannot be reproduced by another company without permission from the company who owns the trademark. Intellectual property refers to property such as trademarks, copyrights, patents, or any other legal protections for property that is not tangible.

In the world of fashion intellectual property is extremely important. It makes up a company’s brand that is used to help sell goods, which is why when a company feels that their legal rights to their intellectual property have been compromised by another company it is taken so seriously.

Fashion Law is one of the most important pieces of the Fashion Industry that is often overlooked. Lawsuits like Forever 21 and Gucci’s are happening all the time in the fashion world. These cases are fought by lawyers who understand the law and the world of fashion, which is where law-loving fashionistas come into play. Lawyers are needed to fight these cases who understand how the fashion industry is run, which is why a fashion student’s understanding of this topic can be so important.

As we know fashion is more than clothes on a mannequin. It’s business, math, economics, chemistry, problem solving, history, law and so much more. The fashion industry is vast and full of opportunities in any field of interest.

With this in mind, would you be interested in learning more about intellectual property and how it affects the fashion industry? If you are contact Amy at akaulis@mercyhurst.edu or complete this quick survey monkey to show your support in starting an intellectual property club.

Shannon Gotham, '22

Always classy, a little bit sassy.