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.

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Companies: forever 21

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Comments on “Forever 21, Famous For Copying Clothing Designs, Tries To Silence Blogger With Infringement Threats”

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That Anonymous Coward says:

Mr. Noh, welcome to the internet age. In the past using shady letters to terrorize someone into silence might have been a valuable tool in your trade. Now from the minute you send one of these ill-conceived missives out, there is a running clock. When that clock hits zero, the internet as a whole becomes aware of your heavy handed attempts to kill free speech and create the illusion the company you represent has special rights. You now join the great people of Monster Cable as laughingstocks. You might want to go Google “Monster Cable Threats” to see what a laughing stock they are now in the perception of the public. Any “damage” caused to the brand you represent was inflicted by you, I suggest you start looking for a sacrificial underling you can throw under the bus to save your worthless hide. We would explain in greater detail why your wrong, but that might stop you from making this mistake again and providing more entertainment to offset the sheer number of cute cat things on the internet.

In closing, maybe you can get some night school classes on these areas of the law so you might handle them correctly in the future.

Teh Internets.

Codefragment (profile) says:

Thanks for pointing me towards a fun site!

The Streisand effect in full force, especially as the WTForever 21 is quite amusing. I’ll have to share it with my friends.

On a silly note, anyone notice how gigantic Noh’s signature is? It’s the size of a paragraph and it’s clipped at the margins, like he started it by writing on the surface of his desk. The threat doesn’t scale with the signature.

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