Wathne in Trademark Suit Against Polo Ralph Lauren

Wathne is seeking $900 million in compensation and punitive damages.

NEW YORK — Wathne Imports Ltd. filed a lawsuit against Polo Ralph Lauren in Manhattan federal court, alleging trademark infringement and breach of contract, among other claims. Wathne is seeking $900 million in compensation and punitive damages.

Wathne Imports, according to the court documents, is a licensee for Ralph Lauren, Polo Ralph Lauren and Polo Sport luggage and handbags. The company signed a license agreement with Polo Ralph Lauren in 1999, according to court papers, which extended Wathne’s license until Dec. 31, 2007.

The complaint, filed August 19, but only recently available, alleged nine claims, including: trademark infringement; unfair competition and false designation of origin; trademark dilution; breach of contract and breach of the obligations of good faith and fair dealing; fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Also included in the claims were three violations of New York state business laws, deceptive use of marks, deceptive trade practices and injury to business reputation and dilution.

“We’ve reviewed the complaint, and we don’t believe it has any merit. We will defend the case vigorously,” said a Polo Ralph Lauren spokeswoman.

According to the court documents, Polo Ralph Lauren allegedly engaged in a number of actions that Wathne claims impeded its use of its licenses. Among the accusations contained in the complaint were allegations that Polo deliberately sabotaged Wathne’s Lauren line, and used its discretion to approve or disapprove handbag and luggage designs in bad faith. The complaint also alleged that Polo used its discretion to disapprove any advertising, thereby refusing to allow the licensee to advertise.

In addition, Wathne alleged in its complaint that Polo intentionally manufactured and sold handbags and backpacks using trademarks “that were confusingly similar” to those it had licensed to Wathne.

Wathne’s lawsuit asks for a preliminary and permanent injunction on Polo trademark infringing activities and breaches of the licensing agreement. The company also asked for compensatory damages of $250 million and punitive damages of $750 million.

This story first appeared in the August 31, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.