United States: Kim Kardashian vs. Missguided Trade Mark Use

Last Updated: July 12 2019
Article by Adam Kellett

Kim Kardashian will no doubt be pleased to have been awarded $2.7 million in damages, in a court case against the fashion brand Missguided.

In addition to damages, and an award of costs for Kardashian's attorneys' fees, an injunction was also issued against Missguided, prohibiting Missguided from using Kim Kardashian's trade marks in connection with the sale, marketing or distribution of its products.

Kardashian, the reality-TV star turned business-woman (and aspiring lawyer), brought the proceedings against Missguided in California earlier this year. Her case was based on claims that Missguided was infringing her trade mark rights, and on US laws protecting her rights of publicity.

The case related to Missguided's practice of producing look-alike garments, based on those worn by Kardashian, and marketing them alongside images of Kardashian and/or her name, which is a registered trade mark in the USA.

The original complaint stated that "Missguided has become particularly well-known for copying designs worn by famous celebrities, which it then offers for sale on its sites within days—sometimes even hours—of the celebrity appearing in the clothing." It went on to state that "Missguided's U.S. website has included entire pages that are devoted solely to the sale of clothing inspired by Kardashian, and on which Kardashian's name and likeness are prominently used without her permission to promote the products."

The complaint also focussed heavily on the use of Kardashian's name and likeness on the social media platform Instagram, alleging that Missguided often used pictures of Kim Kardashian, and her name, in their Instagram posts. Kardashian alleged that Missguided did this to promote their brand and products. The complaint also argued that the public "is likely to and has come to the mistaken conclusion that she is affiliated with Missguided", and that Missguided has "purposefully" included Kardashian's Instagram username (@kimkardashian) in its posts "to capitalize on her celebrity status and social media following".

The complaint also emphasised that, as a hugely well-paid spokesperson and brand endorser, "Kardashian's control over the use of her name, likeness, and trademarks in promoting third-party products and services is absolutely critical to safeguard her reputation, and to prevent the public from being misled into believing that she has associated herself with some product or service that she does not endorse."

The case follows an Instagram exchange involving Kardashian and Missguided. Kardashian posted an image of herself in a dress designed by her husband, Kanye West, with the following plea: "fast fashion brands ... please wait until I wear this in real life before you knock it off?" Within a few hours, Missguided posted a photo of a look-alike model in a similar dress, with the caption "The devil works hard but Missguided works harder. @kimkardashian you've only got a few days before this drops online".

The outcome of the case was eventually decided in "default", after Missguided omitted to engage with the court proceedings. It nonetheless highlights the need for fashion brands to take care in their marketing and social media, to ensure they don't falsely suggest an association with public figures or unfairly benefit from their fame.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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