A federal court has agreed to hold bridal designer Hayley Paige Gutman in civil contempt of a preliminary injunction order.
She and former employer JLM Couture have battled legally over her use of the Hayley Paige name professionally, her social media presence and her announcement of plans for a new bridal campaign on Instagram.
Despite being under contract with JLM Couture through August 2022, Gutman parted ways with the company months ago. The designer posted multiple times and spoke with the media about her plans to start a new bridal company in August 2022.
In her memorandum issued Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain directed Gutman to remove within five days a video from her @agirlyoumightknowgrant Instagram account and several posts from her ATG account that touted plans for a new company. She also violated the PI Order by posting videos of herself sketching designs of dresses, as well as sketches of dresses, in July.
By posting such sketches, Gutman violated the directive to refrain from engaging in the marketing of goods designed, manufactured, licensed or sold by JLM and the prohibition of engaging in the design of competitive goods.
The court rejected Gutman’s claim that the PI Order “constitutes an improper restraint on her speech in violation of the First Amendment.” Swain noted Gutman “voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently, in exchange for consideration, waived her rights to, inter alia, market her own bridal goods, when she agreed not to complete with JLM through the term of her contract.”
Gutman is also now enjoined from revealing a new brand in the context of any present or future commercial ventures related to bridalwear and eveningwear, while the order is in effect.
A spokesman for Gutman said in a statement, “We are disappointed by the court’s ruling. Many elements of the matter are on appeal to the Second Circuit and we look forward to their consideration this fall.”
Gutman’s spokesman said she will comply with the court’s order to remove the posts within five days of the ruling.
A spokesman for JLM Couture said in a statement Thursday afternoon, “JLM is pleased with the outcome of this decision, although it is unfortunate that it has come to this. The court issued a clear preliminary injunction based upon the rights and provisions that Ms. Gutman has flagrantly violated. JLM repeatedly tried to obtain Ms. Gutman’s compliance before making this motion, but M. Gutman refused. It is JLM’s hope that Ms. Gutman will respect her contractual obligations and the court’s order in the near future.”
The court ruled in favor of JLM’s request for an award for its attorneys’ fees and compensation for harm to JLM’s business and reputation. The bridal company estimated that it had lost at least $66,000 in sales based on the average price of JLM-made Hayley Paige bridal dress multiplied 15 times, based on the number of Instagram posts that indicated 15 individuals’ refusal to buy a JLM gown and plans to buy one from Guzman’s new bridal label.
Swain also denied Gutman’s cross-motion for attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with the instant motion practice. The designer is not entitled to recover such fees pursuant to New York Anti-SLAPP a statute. Her being in civil contempt of the court’s PI order preclude that.
In early March, the court granted JLM a preliminary injunction. Gutman’s subsequent move for the dissolution and reconsideration of the preliminary injunction was denied entirely in early June. The court however modified the preliminary injunction barring Gutman from designing, manufacturing or marketing bridal wear until August 2022. It also prohibited her from using any designs, trademarks or variations without the written permission of JLM’s chief executive officer Joseph Murphy.
A few days later Gutman stated in a “Save the Date” video that the judge “clarified in her order that I can re-enter the bridal industry and start designing again under a different brand name in August of 2022.” She also posted among other things, “And when I’m allowed to make a living in the industry I love so much, in August of 2022, I will do it in a way that I can be free and truly proud…”
Subsequent posts stated such things as “Our wedding anniversary is in August, so put me down as one of your first August 2022 customers for an August 2023 vow renewal!”
In early June, Gutman spoke of her business plans in an article with Business Insider. She later shared a link to that article on her ATG account as an Instagram story, which was another action cited in Swain’s memo. “…Ms. Gutman continued to increase public awareness of her forthcoming collection.”
JLM had acknowledged and Gutman has not denied that JLM uses sketches as a marketing tool, using them on the hang tags of dresses and posting them on social media. Gutman conceded that she created a “colored, life-like drawing as an inspiration for Priyanka Chopra’s ‘wedding’ while employed by JLM” and Gutman does not dispute the company’s claim that the design was used for marketing purposes, according to Wednesday’s memo.
Some of the legal dispute between the designer and JLM has played out publicly. In March, Gutman posted a video exposing how she is unable to use her name professionally. “I refuse to feel continually violated by this company. Just because you can use the law to take someone’s social media, someone’s name, someone’s ability to make a living doesn’t mean that you should,” Gutman said at that time.
JLM responded with its own post, citing that “intellectual property is the cornerstone of every modern business especially in the fashion industry” and alleged that Gutman was “trying to mislead the public about the facts of the case and her own motivations.”
Per Wednesday’s memorandum opinion and order, the designer must pay $5,000 to the clerk of court for each day that she is not in compliance with any of the directives.
In a post Thursday afternoon, Gutman acknowledged the contempt order and that several videos and Instagram posts had to be removed by Monday. “I’m very disappointed, but have no choice except to comply with the order.” she posted.
”I want to apologize to those of you who poured your heart and time into comments on these videos and posts. I am grateful for your support, and your love, and I want you to know that I love every one of you right back.” she wrote.
After four hours, the post had racked up nearly 29,000 likes and 1,421 comments.
On Friday, Gutman’s legal team filed an emergency motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, seeking a partial stay of the injunction that was issued Wednesday. Described as a “mega influencer” and an early adopter of social media dating back to 2004, the filing claimed that she garnered $28,500 per post at the peak of her popularity. In early 2017, her Instagram account had more than one million followers and her most-viewed video had 400,000-plus views.
Paige started working for JLM at the age of 25 in 2011 and she went on to serve as head designer for 10 bridal collections, the filing stated. Her contract was extended in February 2019 until August 2022. Gutman claims to have resigned in December 2020, but JLM noted she had been terminated.
The emergency motion claims that the PI order “threatens” the designer’s First Amendment rights and it bars her from pursuing gainful employment until August 2022, as well as posting about “future aspirations on her social media, discussing litigation publicly or from doodling.” Her emergency motion noted that “as a general matter, social media is entitled to the sane First Amendment protections as other firms of media” and that recreational drawings are also entitled to First Amendment protection.
Gutman’s numerous claims include that she has spent nearly all of her life savings defending herself in the lawsuit and that has limited remaining resources.
This article was updated on Sept.10 at 5:50 p.m.