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Burberry Says London Fog Fails Originality Check

British brand sues Iconix in federal court over London Fog designs and advertising.

Burberry Limited fired the first shots of a potential trenchcoat war in federal court against Iconix Brand Group.

Burberry accused Iconix in a lawsuit filed last week of allegedly infringing on Burberry’s signature check design. In court documents filed Aug. 24 in Manhattan federal court, Burberry alleged that the revamped London Fog trenchcoats and scarves bear a check pattern that is “nearly identical” to Burberry’s own.

“We strongly disagree with Burberry’s claims and will be responding accordingly,” an Iconix spokesperson told WWD in response to the suit. “London Fog is an iconic brand with a rich heritage of its own dating back to the 1920s. Plaid designs have been a common element of London Fog products for years.”

Burberry said that, in purchasing the London Fog brand, Iconix “intended to trade on Burberry’s advertising, its product selection and its trademarks, to reap immediately the benefits that Burberry established over many years,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit contained federal and state level allegations of trademark and trade dress infringement, dilution, deceptive acts and practices, unjust enrichment and dilution and likelihood of injury to business reputation. Burberry asked the court for an injunction, damages and trial costs.

Iconix purchased London Fog out of bankruptcy about a year ago. At the time the company announced plans to reposition the brand for new growth. Trenchcoats were singled out as a key component of that growth, according to published reports. In September of last year, Neil Cole, chairman and chief executive officer of Iconix, told WWD that outerwear was slated to launch this fall accompanied by a major advertising campaign. “We could be doing some interesting things with models and the trenchcoat,” Cole said at the time.

Last September, Iconix was open about long-term goals to reposition London Fog as a lifestyle brand. Cole said the company was studying the success of brands such as Coach and Burberry.

Burberry alleged in its complaint that Iconix’s launch of the London Fog brand with a trenchcoat that had a checked lining “is no accident.” The company went on to describe how the spacing, thickness and overlapping of the lines as well as the squares created in the allegedly infringing items were identical to its own check.

The complaint also contains allegations that the London Fog advertising campaign that launched in the September 2007 issue of Glamour infringed on the look and feel of Burberry’s advertising campaign. Infringing ads allegedly also appeared in the September 2007 issues of In Style and Cosmopolitan.