A New Jersey supplier of Italian hosiery is accusing Victoria’s Secret of distributing “knockoffs” in a $15 million lawsuit for breach of contract. Zephyrs filed suit against Victoria’s Secret and its parent company Limited Brands Inc. in an Ohio federal court for using images of luxury stockings on its in-store displays and packaging while selling consumers a cheap product to cut costs.
The case is captioned Runberg, Inc. d/b/a Zephyrs v. Victoria’s Secret Stores, Inc., et al., 2:12-cv-722-EAS-MRA (S.D. Ohio). The complaint claims Victoria’s Secret contacted suppliers directly in regards to copying their designs.
Joseph Gioconda of Gioconda Law Group PLLC told Women’s Wear Daily: “Victoria’s Secret changed the product in the packaging but didn’t change anything else except Made in Canada on the back of the package.”
According to a press release issued by Gioconda Law Group PLLC, it appears Victoria’s Secret used to sell Zephyrs’ Italian-made hosiery, but broke up with the supplier or breached written contracts from 2001, and then switched to a Canadian supplier and allegedly did not change images on displays and packaging, except for swapping a “Made in Italy” label with a “Made in Canada.”
Besides breach of contract, Zephyrs alleged unfair competition, sought “corrective advertising,” and a recall of the knockoff products called Lace Top Fish Net Stockings, Fish Net Thigh-Highs With Backseam, and Signature Stripe Thigh-High With Bows, according to NYDailyNews.com.
Knockoffs are a type of intellectual property infringement. Fashion may be protected by either patent or copyright laws. Copyrights protect any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive, and discrete and fixed in a medium. Patents offer legal monopoly in use, manufacture, and sale of inventions.
According to the press release issued by Gioconda Law Group PLLC: “The less expensive copies are missing key design features, Zephyrs claims.” Lawsuit exhibits indicate differences between the Zephyrs products depicted on the packages and the actual stockings inside, including lace trim, heel reinforcements, and borders.
To prevent knockoffs, companies usually apply for design patents on the designs with the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Copyrights are traditionally for text but are now being used for designs. The main difference between copyrights and design patents is that the damages for patent infringements might be more. A copyright registration for the assertion of rights requires the same specimens as for a design patent filing – a clean graphics of the design, both alone and on the fashion product.