As companies continue to make their values known to the public, Amazon is backing a lawsuit opposing President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Also in court: fashion brands and their wearables. Kate Spade is the latest brand to be slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit over wearable fashion. And while the old Taylor Swift may not be able to come to the phone right now, her legal team is busy filing up a storm of trademark applications.
Brands Must Take a Stand; for Amazon, That’s Legal in Nature
The Trump administration’s increasingly polarizing policies are essentially forcing companies to take a stand and do so publicly. To date, this has largely consisted of executives for consumer goods and retail companies distancing themselves from Trump’s various committees, such as his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, and denouncing his views on everything from racism and immigration to women’s rights and LGBT issues.
Consider the mass exodus of executives from Trump’s Jobs Initiative on the heels of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and his response to the white supremacism on display in the U.S. Inge Thulin, president and chief executive officer of 3M, was one of the Council members that very overtly stepped down and condemned Trump. In conjunction with an official announcement from 3M — which stated that, “At 3M, we will continue to champion an environment that supports sustainability, diversity, and inclusion — Thulin tweeted, “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.”
But the involvement of brands in making their companies’ values known — something consumers are increasingly demanding — is taking a new turn, as indicated by a recent statement from Amazon. On the heels of Trump’s decision this week to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, the e-commerce giant has spoken out in support of a lawsuit filed by 15 states on Wednesday aiming to block the administration’s anti-DACA action.
Amazon used Trump’s move to overturn DACA as an opportunity to make its values known, stating, “Amazon has always been committed to equal rights, tolerance and diversity — and we always will be. As we’ve grown the company, we’ve worked hard to attract talented people from all over the world and we believe this is one of the things that makes Amazon great — a diverse workforce with diverse backgrounds, ideas and points of view helps us build better products and services for our customers.”
Fashion Struggles With Wearables
Wearables are both the rage — and the future — in fashion, at least in theory, and while some of these offerings have caught on, more than anything else, they are landing brands in hot water legally. For instance, two years ago, Ralph Lauren was slapped with a lawsuit over a specific version of its $5,000 Ricky bag that included technology to enable carriers to use the bag to charge their phones. Inventor Jimmy Bryan alleged that Lauren’s bag made use of two of his patent-protected technologies for rechargeable accessories.
That same year, Victoria’s Secret faced a patent infringement lawsuit in federal court in Georgia for allegedly making use of wearable technology company Sarvint Technologies’ patent-protected “smart shirt.”
More recently: A patent infringement lawsuit filed against Kate Spade by Illinois-based technology company Sportbrain Holdings alleges that the brand’s newest wearable tech bracelet and accompanying apps infringe its patent-protected data collection technology.
According to Sportbrain’s patent infringement lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Illinois this week, Kate Spade’s new bracelet, which retails for almost $130, “incorporates at least an accelerometer and/or motion sensor” that collects data about the wearer’s daily activity, which falls under the umbrella of Sportbrain’s patent-protected invention.
It appears that in addition to struggling to make technology that is wearable — and more importantly, that is appealing to fashion-minded consumers — brands are consistently running afoul of the law, at least allegedly, as no shortage of similar suits have followed the select few mentioned here. As brands continue to attempt to make strides in terms of wearables, this is a space to watch, as litigation is certainly not slowing.
“The Old Taylor Can’t Come to the Phone Right Now”
While Taylor Swift was sharing her new song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” with the likes of anyone with a computer late last month, her legal team was busy filing trademark applications for registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Not only is the Swift camp looking to protect the album name and select song titles in the classes of goods that cover everything from “retail and online retail store services” to clothing and…“Christmas tree ornaments and decorations,” they also want to market one of the most tweeted-about lines from her first new song, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.”
That is right. It appears that Swift and company plan to apply the slogan to everything from women’s wear, men’s wear and accessories — including cellular phone accessory charms and patches — to paper products and calendars. Just the act of filing a trademark application does not mean that Swift’s team will, in fact, produce and sell all of — or any of — these products, just as it does not guarantee legal rights on the proposed marks. However, it does appear that Swift is going to run with this line, in particular, while also attempting to ensure that no one does the same.
Not a novel tactic. Kanye West, Beyoncé and a huge array of other artists have taken to the USPTO to try to protect everything from album titles and lyrics to the name of their children – with varying degrees of success.
Julie Zerbo is the founder of The Fashion Law.