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Navajo Nation Files Lawsuit Against Urban Outfitters
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Urban Outfitters has been sued by the Navajo Nation just months after it received a cease and desist letter asking that it remove ‘Navajo’ from the products it sells. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico. The suit claims trademark violations as well as violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. This act makes it illegal to sell crafts or other art in any method that wrongly suggests that the items were produced by American Indians when they in fact were not.

The Navajo name is protected on 10 registered trademarks for footwear, retail sales online, clothing, textiles and household products. Officials from the tribe say that they will do whatever it takes to protect the Navajo tribe’s assets.


“The fame or reputation of the Navajo name and marks is such that, when defendant uses the ‘Navajo’ and ‘Navaho’ marks with its goods and services, a connection with the Navajo Nation is falsely presumed,” the lawsuit said.

A line of clothing and accessories released by Urban Outfitters in 2011 caused a ton of criticism because it included Navajo ideals and one inappropriate item. One of the items that caused a lot of problems was a liquor flask that was called ‘derogatory and scandalous’ by the tribe. The sale of alcohol is illegal on the reservation that covers northeast Arizona, northwest New Mexico and southeast Utah. When Urban Outfitters received the cease and desist letter it removed the products from its website.

The lawsuit alleges that the name Navajo still appears on products sold in catalogs, retail stores and in brands such as Free People. The website for Urban Outfitters shows jewelry with the label of Navajo on it featuring stones of silver and turquoise. The product description for the item says that it was sold at a trading post originally and it features an arrow etched on the back of it.

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The spokesman for Urban Outfitters, Ed Looram, said back in October in an email that the company was not going to change the products that it offers.

“Like many other fashion brands, we interpret trends and will continue to do so for years to come,” he said. “The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term ‘Navajo’ have been cycling thru fashion, fine art and design for the last few years.”

In 2011, the tribe was able to stop a French company doing business in the United States with the name ‘Navaho’ because it was argued that the name was too close phonetically to Navajo, which caused it to encroach on its trademark. The Navajo tribe does license its name to companies so long as they share the profits with them.


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