Stacey Bendet’s dark hair, round glasses and red lipstick are well-known among fashionistas. The designer, chief executive officer of Alice + Olivia, has plastered the trademarked image on clothing, handbags and wallets throughout her brand. Now a similar image can be seen on Betsey Johnson bags. And Bendet isn’t happy about it.
Alice + Olivia, also known as A+O, filed a lawsuit earlier this month in a New York district court against the Betsey Johnson company, which was acquired by Steve Madden in 2010, for copyright and trademark infringement.
A+O alleges Betsey Johnson uses Bendet’s face, the “StaceFace,” on its bags.
Staceypants, the company owned by Bendet, “has exclusively licensed, assigned and granted all rights and exclusive permission to A+O to use the StaceFace Designs, imagery and all associated copyrights and trademarks and variations on the imagery,” the complaint reads.
The company first learned that one of Betsey’s bags was using “a design which is virtually identical to the StaceFace Designs,” as early as February 2017, and asked the Steve Madden company to stop manufacturing and selling goods with the StaceFace image on it. According to court documents, the Betsey Johnson company originally agreed to do just that.
“Unfortunately, A+O’s good faith intentions and efforts to resolve its disputes with defendants appear to have been in vain,” the court documents state. “Defendants have continued their efforts to copy and ‘knock-off’ the StaceFace Designs.”
“The blatant replication compelled the conclusion that defendants intentionally copied the StaceFace Designs to foster confusion and to deceive customers into believing that the customers were purchasing products originating with A+O,” the document continues.
Then in September of this year, representatives at A+O said they found additional Betsey Johnson goods that have the StaceFace on them. The only difference is that this time the round glasses have been changed to resemble hearts.
The heart-shaped glasses may be an attempt to avoid liability, said Susan Scafidi, a fashion attorney and founder of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University in New York.
A+O argued in the complaint that the Betsey Johnson bags confuse customers and may lead them to believe that there is some kind of collaboration between the two brands.
According to court documents, reps at Steve Madden and Betsey Johnson reassured A+O that it had in fact stopped manufacturing and selling goods with the StaceFace on them.
“The bag photographed must be part of stock remainders that have made their way through the retail channels,” an email from Steve Madden to A+O, included in the court filing, read.
Now A+O is seeking a jury trial to solve the issue. Representatives for Steve Madden did not respond to a request for comment.