Forever 21, Famous For Copying Clothing Designs, Tries To Silence Blogger With Infringement Threats
from the wtf? dept
For years, in the discussions on fashion copyright, we’ve defended the right of companies such as Forever 21 to copy fashion designs, make cheaper versions and sell them in their stores. Actually, Forever 21 is often the poster child of examples from those who want a brand new fashion copyright law. The company has also been subject to a few lawsuits for copying, most of which have settled. However, apparently, the company doesn’t recognize the irony in then abusing intellectual property claims to threaten a satirical blogger, who writes a blog making fun of the retailer, called WTForever 21.
Of course, the main focus o Forever 21’s lawyers is on the trademark claim, though there is a copyright claim in there as well. One would hope Forever 21’s lawyers are aware of the pretty long line of legal decisions noting that websites critical of companies (often referred to as “sucks sites”) are perfectly legal, in most cases, in large part because no one would confuse the sucks site for the original. That reasoning certainly applies here. Of course, Forever 21’s lawyers point to the increasingly popular “dilution” interpretation of trademark law to claim that connecting their brand with the internet slang term “WTF” is diluting. This is, plainly speaking, ridiculous. Seriously, WTF Forever 21? Someone putting up such a site doesn’t harm your trademark.
You know what does harm your trademark? Stupidly threatening the satire site, in the first place.
Separately, the lawyers claim copyright infringement (which, yes, is quite laughable coming from this particular company), because the blogger made use of images from Forever 21. Once again, while the specific uses may matter, it seems like there’s likely a strong fair use argument here. But, even more to the point, it is entirely clear from the letter, that Forever 21’s complaint has nothing to do with infringement of either trademarks or copyright at all, but the fact that the company doesn’t like being made fun of.
This is not what either trademark or copyright law was designed to deal with.
Using both such laws for this purpose is clearly an abuse of the law to try to censor a critic. I may defend, strongly, Forever 21’s right to copy fashion designs, but the company has gone way overboard here in an attempt to stifle speech.