LOS ANGELES — Stussy Inc., the streetwear company that has parodied the logos of enterprises from Louis Vuitton to the New York Knicks, is suing Fresh Jive Manufacturing for unauthorized use of its stylized graffiti logo on T-shirts set to hit stores next week.
The complaint, filed by Irvine, Calif.-based Stussy in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, accuses Fresh Jive of trademark infringement, injury to business reputation, false representation and unfair competition. It seeks unspecified damages, restraint of Fresh Jive’s use of the design and the destruction of all merchandise, packaging and labels with Stussy’s likeness.
The logo at the center of the controversy is a spray-paint style squiggle that spells out the name “Stussy.” The “graffiti logo” was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1997 and has been used on apparel ever since, according to court documents.
As part of its spring 2005 offerings, Fresh Jive, a Los Angeles company known for its irreverent humor and graphics-driven collection of active streetwear, planned a line of T-shirts called “The Mad Parody Series.” The shirts, which would retail for about $20 and be sold through existing Fresh Jive distribution channels nationwide — primarily surf, skate and boutique shops — riff on the logos of the Quiksilver, Volcom, Obey and Stussy brands.
Each design visually spoofs the original brand logo — Fresh Jive’s version of the Obey logo replaces Andre the Giant with Mad magazine mascot Alfred E. Newman and the Stussy takeoff replaces that company’s name with Fresh Jive’s. Each of the designs is framed by the words “The Official Fresh Jive Mad Parody Series.”
Fresh Jive founder and president Rick Klotz said it is his way of commenting on the state of the streetwear industry. “Last year I got fed up with this business and the consumerism of a label-driven world. So I thought this would make a statement about how kids buy up all these brand names like sheep,’’ he said.
That message, buttressed by a posting on the Fresh Jive Web site and emphasized by including the word “parody” in the design, makes it a fair use of Stussy’s logo under the definition of parody, Klotz said.
“There’s a very precise legal definition of parody,” said John Sommer, Stussy’s general counsel. “Slapping the word ‘parody’ on there doesn’t protect it under parody any more than putting the word ‘First Amendment’ protects it under the First Amendment.”
David Welkowitz, a Whittier Law School professor and trademark expert, said Fresh Jive will need to convince the court that consumers view the Stussy-esque logo as a commentary on consumerism.