In March 2017, Puma had filed a suit against Forever 21, at the District Court of California, US, alleging that by copying its Fenty shoes' range, the latter has infringed Puma's design patent, trade dress and copyright. Since Puma's Creeper Sneaker, Fur Slide and Bow Slide, have been advertised as designed by the famous Barbadian singer Robyn Rihanna Fenty, these sneakers and slip-on sandals are commonly known as the 'Fenty shoes'.
The Court upheld Puma's claims of infringement of its design patent in the 'Creeper Sneakers' as it was of the view that the dissimilarities between the contending sneakers, as pointed out by Forever 21, were too less for any ordinary observer to differentiate between the designs.
For a claim of trade dress, the design claimed should have an aesthetic value over and above, or irrespective of its utility (usefulness)/ function. Puma's claim for trade dress was contested by Forever 21 stating that the elements claimed as part of the trade dress do not have any 'source identifying distinctive qualities' as a lot of other brands sold similar footwear. The Court dismissed Puma's claim of trade dress as it could not sufficiently prove the non-functionality.
Lastly, Puma has also alleged copyright infringement of the Fenty shoes which were the subject of 3 copyright applications. Parties alleging copyright infringement must possess, inter alia, a valid copyright ownership. Forever 21 had also tried to bring the singer Rihanna into the litigation stating that Rihanna has been advertised as the designer of said products but has not been named in the copyright applications.
It has been reported1 in November 2018 that, after 2 years of tedious litigation and each side winning and losing its fair share, the parties have agreed to settle the dispute. The high-end fashion industry has kept Forever 21 in news with numerous infringement suits such as those by Adidas, Gucci, Foley etc. to name a few, for copying designer garments and selling their cheaper versions at retails.
Compiled by: Adv. Sachi Kapoor | Concept & Edited by: Dr. Mohan Dewan
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