It’s Donald Pliner vs. Donald Pliner.
DJP Holdings, which owns the Donald J. Pliner footwear brand, sued the company’s founder, Donald Pliner, and his wife, Lisa, in Delaware federal court alleging breach of contract, trademark infringement, false advertising, deceptive trade practices and unfair competition.
Pliner founded the company in 1989 and built up a profile as a luxury footwear player. The company hit a rocky financial patch and sold a majority stake to private equity firm Castanea Partners.
The designer stayed on as creative director for four years, but left the firm last year to pursue “new creative endeavors,” but was at first bound by a non-compete agreement.
Last month, the designer unveiled just what those new endeavors were, two new lines: From the Mountains of Italy and From the Beaches of Spain. The lines will be available at his new Upper East Side showroom and will be shown at FFANY and FN Platform in Las Vegas.
He told Footwear News last month: “I had to change everything, [but] it’s always going to look like me. I had to come back so people know who I really am. Everything is new. [And] the materials and colors are going to separate them from what’s in the market…I realized that [the name] doesn’t matter because I know who I am now. [These collections are] the true Donald Pliner. This is my next chapter.”
DJP Holdings finds the endeavor too close for comfort.
In its suit, the company argued: “Just days before two of the most important trade shows of the year, Donald and Lisa have launched a new footwear business in breach of their agreements with the company, and are unfairly competing with plaintiffs, despite selling control of the company to private investors in 2011 for millions of dollars.”
The suit said that while the Pliners could start a footwear line, they “permanently and irrevocably assigned to plaintiffs all company branding — including their own names, likenesses and product styles and designs — for use in connection with footwear and other products.”
DJP said the Pliners have put their names on packaging for their new footwear and that the company has long-standing rights to the marks: “Made in the Mountains of Italy and Made on the Beaches of Spain.”
The suit also charges that, “Donald and Lisa have misappropriated Plaintiffs’ confidential information, including Plaintiffs’ customer lists, for their new business.”
The suit said Donald Pliner holds a minority interest in the firm, but has no involvement in its management or affairs.
DJP is seeking an injunction and monetary damages.
The designer could not immediately be reached for comment.