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Express Sues Wal-Mart Over Ad Campaign

The Express specialty store chain has taken exception to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s "Express for Less" ad campaign and sued the retail behemoth for trademark...

The Express specialty store chain has taken exception to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s “Express for Less” ad campaign and sued the retail behemoth for trademark infringement and unfair competition.

This story first appeared in the May 15, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“[Wal-Mart’s] infringing mark literally communicates to the consumer that it, a discount retailer with an overwhelming nationwide presence, is offering genuine Express-branded apparel of the same quality, but ‘for less,’ at a lower, ‘unbeatable’ price,” said the complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court Monday.

Express, two-thirds of which was sold to Golden State Capital last summer, is seeking to enjoin Wal-Mart from infringing on its Express trademark.

An advertising circular used as an exhibit in the complaint notes Wal-Mart will match the price of local competitors on identical products.

“This low price guarantee not only encourages consumers to submit plaintiff’s promotional and advertising materials to defendant for a price match, but it also suggests that plaintiff’s merchandise bearing the Express mark is overpriced,” the plaintiff said in court papers.

The Express brand has racked up more than $20 billion in sales since 1980 and is supported by about $45 million worth of advertising and promotions annually, according to the suit.

Wal-Mart reported higher first-quarter sales and earnings Tuesday and said its apparel business is poised to take off with the warmer weather.

“Apparel is already recovering and it’s being driven by the very successful introduction late last year of our ‘Express for Less’ initiative and our emphasis on price points of $10 or less,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and chief executive officer of the Wal-Mart division.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman declined to comment on pending litigation.