NEW YORK — As the back-to-school shopping season hits its peak, the battle between Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters has extended from the mall to an Ohio courtroom.

Abercrombie’s teen concept J.M. Hollister has sued its competitor over its use of the number “22.” The lawsuit was filed in a Columbus federal court earlier this month.

According to the suit, the number refers to 1922, the year that the three-year-old Hollister chain claims on some pieces of merchandise to have been founded. While Hollister never registered a trademark for the number, it is claiming common-law trademark infringement and unfair competition. Hollister charged that American Eagle’s adoption of the number on its merchandise was “designed to create a likelihood of confusion among consumers as to the source or origin” of the merchandise.

Hollister is seeking to bar its competitor from using the number. It is also asking for an accounting of profits and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Neil Bulman, American Eagle’s vice president and general counsel, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said the company intends to defend itself.

Hollister said in court papers that in fiscal 2002, its sales exceeded $150 million and that since 2000, when the concept was established, Hollister spent more than $4 million on advertising and marketing of the brand. Hollister, which offers casual apparel to young men and women between the ages of 14 and 18, operates 93 stores.

This isn’t the first time the two companies have engaged in copycat caterwauling. In 1998, Abercrombie filed a lawsuit against American Eagle charging it with copying Abercrombie’s styles and marketing.

Abercrombie complained about American Eagle’s use of the words “authentic” and “vintage sweatshirts,” and went so far as to claim proprietary rights to primary color combinations and striped patterns on shirts.

The following year, a federal district court judge threw out the lawsuit.

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