Fashion law roundup: Tiffany fights back; Condé cares about interns! (or labor regulations); new fur law; McQueen v. ... Snooki?

Posted by Charles Colman

It was an unusually busy week for fashion lawyers, and the people who love them begrudgingly tolerate their social media assaults.  As usual, LAW OF FASHION will provide the highlights in this convenient roundup, but to stay current on your fashion law news, join the official LAW OF FASHION LinkedIn group (and go ahead and follow LOF's Twitter feed, @fashionlawblog, for good measure.)


And now, the news you can probably live without, but will read anyway because it's free...

"Tiffany Files Counter-Claim In Legal Spat With Swatch" (Wall Street Journal)

"U.S. luxury goods maker Tiffany & Co. has launched a counter-claim against Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group AG for damages related to a failed partnership between the two companies.  In a statement Monday, Swatch said Tiffany is seeking 541.9 million Swiss francs ($589 million) from Swatch after the Swiss company and its affiliate, Tiffany Watch Co. Ltd, claimed 3.8 billion francs in damages from Tiffany & Co. in December...."

This is one of those disputes that seems like it would be glamorous to work on, until you find yourself employed as a junior associate at one of the mega-firms handling this arbitration, which happens to be taking place in the Netherlands, on behalf of either an American or a Swiss company, and "commuting" back and forth from New York and a Munich document retention warehouse on Sunday-evening red-eyes.  (Speaking of which, I should give a quick shoutout to my long, lost friends at Debevoise!)


"FTC Seeks Public Comments on Agency's Fur Rules, Announces [Broader] Enforcement Policy" (Federal Trade Commission)

"The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comments on its Fur Labeling and Advertising Rules – commonly known as the Fur Rules – and announcing upcoming changes required by Congress.... As of March 18, 2011, the 2010 law eliminates the FTC’s authority to exempt fur products 'of relatively small quantity or value of the fur used' from its Rules (known as the de minimis exemption), and provides a new exemption for furs sold directly by trappers and hunters to customers in certain face-to-face transactions. Finally, the 2010 law requires the FTC to start a review and seek public comment...."

Um, yeah, you shouldn't be buying or selling fur anyway, for reasons explained by Vaute Couture's charming founder, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, in this LAW OF FASHION interview.  But if you are, you better play by the rules, or the FTC (much like the rhythm) is gonna getcha.

"Condé Nast Overhauls Its Internship Program, Enforces Stricter Regulations and Mandatory Mentorships" (Fashionista)


"Now that a major publishing company [Hearst] has been sued by an unpaid intern, others may be reforming their own internship programs in the interest of avoiding a similar situation.... And from what we’re hearing, it sounds like Condé internships are going to be some of the most tightly regulated in the fashion industry...."


See, now, way before the whole Hearst episode that prompted this, LAW OF FASHION ® was writing about "The legal minefield of unpaid internships".  So just hire this writer's law firm already, and save yourself the heartache (and the potential damages.)  Oh, and if you're a potential intern rather than a potential intern-abuser, check out this helpful article from Fashionista on "What Fashion Internships Are Really Like at Condé Nast and Hearst."


"Hailey Clauson Urban Outfitters Lawsuit Headed To Court" (Huff Post Style)

"Hailey Clauson, the teenage model who sued Urban Outfitters for $28 million, may finally be heading to court.... Clauson and her parents sued Urban Outfitters upon discovering that Clauson's image was being used on t-shirts and other merchandise sold at the store. [The lawsuit] contends that the pictures were inappropriate, showing the then 15-year-old model "in a blatantly salacious manner with her legs spread, without a bra, revealing portions of her breasts....  [Now, t]he retailer's efforts to get the lawsuit, filed back in August 2011, dismissed have been rejected by New York federal judge George Daniels...."

For some provocative, thoroughly amateur investigative journalism on this case, check out LOF's 8/22/11 post: "TEEN MODEL v. Parry (or 'Are TM's parents are just hitting up Urban Outfitters for some quick cash?')"

"Did Snooki Copy McQueen?" (The Fashion Law)

"The next set of knock-offs are going around the industry. This time, it's McQueen and Jersey Shore star, Snooki. The bags themselves do not share a similar structure. McQueen's version, released several years ago, is a compact box clutch, whereas Snooki's is a larger leather clutch. Regardless, the skull detail rings that both bags have are undeniably similar!  This is an instance where McQueen may actually have a case. Fashion law buffs, read on: While it is widely known that utilitarian items (a/k/a "useful articles") are not copyrightable, there is an exception for separable design features [like, perhaps] the skull detail rings on the clutch...."

Blogger Julie Zerbo of The Fashion Law has been on fire these past couple weeks, breaking one knockoff story after another.  But her commentary on this episode is particularly interesting because of the "separability" issues she raises.  If that word doesn't mean anything to you in the copyright context, revisit this LOF post (and this one, too); if you're still lost, it's probably best to just go ahead and buy this book, which contains a 90-page chapter I wrote on intellectual property issues in fashion.  (Psst- e-mail me at ccolman {at} lawoffashion {dot} com for a discount code that's good until March 31st.)

"Abercrombie Stock Weakness Invites Speculation" (Women's Wear Daily)

"Abercrombie & Fitch Co.’s sagging stock price has Wall Street speculating about a leveraged buyout of the racy teen retailer. The firm has been through the rumor mill several times now and Cowen and Co. analyst John Kernan ran the numbers for a buyout today and found that the economics of a deal 'can’t be denied'...."

Damn, can't a racist, one-trick pony catch a break around here?


"Handbag Shopper Seeks Damages" (South China Morning Post)

"A 32-year-old woman is seeking compensation from [Hong Kong luxury retailer] Lane Crawford after she said she was locked in a VIP room at the luxury department store while staff looked into her request to authenticate a [Chanel] bag she had bought there.... She is seeking [$6,500 US], along with two Chanel handbags, to compensate for the distress she says she suffered...."

Without a doubt, the strangest fashion law story of the week.  No, wait, on second thought, it's a tie between this story and the news that Donald Trump has licensed his name for use on a fragrance... not a hair product, mind you, but a fragrance -- as in, something you put on your body to smell a certain way.

Other stories

"[Labor law]suit against Alexander Wang in flux, to be moved to federal court with new lawyer" (New York Post / Page Six)

"[Blogger] Susie Bubble Calls Out Topshop For Knocking Off Young UK Designer [and TS Promptly Stops!]" (Styleite)

"Chanel Won't Make Crystal Cuffs Out of Respect for Pamela Love's Work" (NBC 4 New York / Thread NY)

"Counterfeit Imports: International Trade Commission Requests Comments on Louis Vuitton Matter" (Fashion Cloture)

"Warner Bros. Responds to Louis Vuitton Lawsuit Over 'Hangover II' Handbag" (The Hollywood Reporter / THR Esq.)

"An Uneasy Cultural Exchange" (or, "Further reflections on the Navajo Tribe v. Urban Outfitters lawsuit") (New York Times)

Upcoming events

Tuesday, Mar. 20th, 4:30 P.M. to 7:45 P.M. (Philly) - "Penn Intellectual Property Group Annual Symposium: Fashion Law" (a/k/a "The Panel that Louis Vuitton Unsuccessfully Tried to Shut Down")

Thursday, Mar. 29th, 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. (NYC) - "Why Copyright?" (sponsored by The Copyright Society of the U.S.A. and hosted by NYU Law School).  Moderated by Eric Rayman, with panelists Julia Haye, Max Tonnone, and me.

Thursday, April 25th, 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. (NYC) - "The Margins of Copyright Law," organized by the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School. Details forthcoming.


Late April (exact date/time TBD): This writer will be moderating a fashion law panel at the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), tentatively featuring Marc Jacobs Associate General Counsel Kelly Koyama and other notable panelists TBA.

[This post is for entertainment and informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship among any individuals or entities.  Any views expressed in this post or at the linked web pages are those of the writer on a particular date, and should not necessarily be attributed to this writer, his law firm, or its clients.  LAW OF FASHION does not and cannot warrant the thoroughness or accuracy of the content at the linked web pages.]