NEW YORK — Anthropologie Inc. and U.O.D. Inc., subsidiaries of Urban Outfitters Inc., filed a lawsuit here against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for allegedly infringing on its fabric designs as well as for unfair business practices.

The complaint, filed Sept. 27 in Manhattan Federal Court, alleged that Wal-Mart manufactured and sold skirts featuring patterns, fabrics, color schemes and designs that are “identical, virtually identical, or highly similar” to those used by Anthropologie.

The complaint listed four claims: copyright infringement, federal unfair competition, common law unfair competition and deceptive trade practices. The copyright infringement claim refers to two Anthropologie fabric designs called City Garden Print and Bird Garden Sateen that were registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in August of this year.

Wal-Mart did not return calls for comment by press time.

Wal-Mart is currently engaged in a strategic merchandising campaign to raise its fashion quotient in the U.S., which includes advertising in fashion magazines, holding runway shows and announcing the launch of an urban apparel brand for women. The Anthropologie lawsuit stated that the mass retailer has been promoting itself as “cheap chic” in an effort to move away from its image as a low-price retailer. Traditionally, the Anthropologie complaint alleged, Wal-Mart has not been associated with cutting-edge fashion and design.

“In order to build its ‘cheap chic’ line, Wal-Mart has embarked on a conscious strategy of copying the designs of others and manufacturing such designs itself, or through contracting factories, for sale in its own stores,” the court document alleged.

Anthropologie has asked the court to permanently enjoin Wal-Mart from manufacturing, distributing, selling or advertising products that infringe directly or indirectly on its copyrights. In addition, the company asked that Wal-Mart be directed to deliver the allegedly offending items to be destroyed. The lawsuit also asked the court to restrain Wal-Mart from registering or applying to register copyrights, trademarks, service marks or other symbols of copyright origin that might be confused with any of Anthropologie’s. Anthropologie has requested statutory and punitive damages.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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