Fenty Puma by Rihanna show, Fall Winter 2016, New York Fashion Week, America - 12 Feb 2016

Puma has lost round one in its fight with Forever 21 over several shoe styles that are allegedly copies of those designed by Rihanna in collaboration with the athleticwear company.

A California federal judge on Friday refused to order a preliminary injunction against Forever 21 and its sale of a suede creeper sneaker, a slide sandal with fur and a slide sandal with a knotted satin bow that Puma claims are copies of designs created as part of Rihanna Fenty line, which are also protected under a mix of copyright and trademark designations.

Judge Philip Gutierrez rejected Puma’s effort to get the allegedly infringing shoes off Forever 21’s shelves while the infringement case winds its way to resolution, despite the company’s claims that the fast-fashion retailer’s copy-catting ways threaten Puma’s entire business, saying there’s no “actual evidence of irreparable injury.”

“To obtain an injunction based on any of its causes of action, Puma must submit evidence of irreparable harm that is real and significant, not speculative or remote,” the judge said.

Gutierrez went on to take issue with Puma’s argument that by quickly producing alleged copies of the Fenty shoes, Forever 21 is hurting Puma’s reputation, sales and depressing prices for its goods, noting that Puma has yet to ground its claims in evidence.

Rihanna’s Fenty bow slides (left) and Forever 21 version (right). 

“Puma has not, for example, submitted any evidence that consumers’ perception of its brand has been weakened or that Puma has experienced a decline in its reputation on account of Forever 21’s infringing products,” the judge said. “In order to show harm to its brand under Ninth Circuit precedent, Puma must do more than simply submit a declaration insisting that its brand image and prestige have or will be harmed.”

Gutierrez added that Puma had failed to show monetary relief would be an insufficient remedy to its claims, which is required for preliminary injunction, leaving the court “unconvinced” that such an “extraordinary” move is needed.

Representatives of Puma and Forever 21 could not be reached for comment.

Puma filed suit against Forever 21 in April, and beyond claiming its proprietary designs were being used in an effort to trade of Puma’s goodwill with consumers, the brand said Forever 21’s entire business model operates by using the “established goodwill of reputable, name-brand companies.”

Forever 21, which has faced its share of lawsuits by brands making similar allegations of infringement, pushed back hard at the end of May, characterizing Puma’s allegations and its injunctive demand as “thinly veiled anticompetitive intent.”

The retailer also pushed the court to dismiss Puma’s infringement claims outright, arguing the athletic brand is only one of “dozens” that offer the “classic shoe designs” at issue. That dismissal motion is still pending.

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