Rihanna on the catwalkFenty Puma by Rihanna show, Autumn Winter 2017, Paris Fashion Week, France - 06 Mar 2017

Puma’s looking to protect its buzzy fashion collaboration with Rihanna, taking Forever 21 Inc. to court over styles it deems too close for comfort.

In the suit filed Friday in California federal court, Puma said Forever 21 is selling three shoe designs — a suede creeper sneaker, a slide sandal with fur and a slide sandal with a knotted satin bow  — that are clear copies of looks from Rihanna’s Fenty label for the company. The singer’s designs are protected by a combination of design patent, copyright and trade dress.

Puma said the Fenty shoes are luxury items with intentionally limited production that tend to sell out rapidly online and in retailers such as Neiman Marcus Group, Nordstrom Inc., Urban Outfitters  Inc. and Bloomingdale’s.

“Seeking to trade on the substantial goodwill of Puma, Rihanna and the Fenty shoes, [Forever 21] has blatantly copied (or ‘knocked off’) each of these shoes,” Puma said in its complaint. “Indeed, although the Bow Slide was only released this month, defendant is already offering copies of it on its web site.”

An exhibit from Puma’s suit showing Rihanna’s Fenty bow slides (left) and a similar style by Forever 21. 

Moreover, Puma said Forever 21’s copy is “so precise” that the fast-fashion retailer is only offering the slide in the same two colors that the Fenty Bow Slide is offered in, pink and olive green, and added that the copy was “called out on social media” soon after it hit Forever 21’s site.

As for the suede creepers, which do not appear online, Puma pointed to Forever 21’s use of suede and a thick ridged rubber sole in its “Yoki” shoe as a clear reproduction of the Fenty trade dress and copyright.

RihannaRihanna at Narita International Airport, Chiba Prefecture, Japan - 15 Jun 2015

Rihanna wearing a pair of her Fenty creepers in 2015.  Aflo/REX/Shutterstock

Puma went on to say that Forever 21 is “using the infringing trade dress in an attempt to associate its shoes with Puma, Rihanna and the Fenty trade dress, to cause mistake or deception as to the source” of its designs and to generally trade on Puma’s “valuable reputation” with customers.

Forever 21 has faced scores of lawsuits by retailers and designers, including Puma rival Adidas, Anthropologie, Diane von Furstenberg and Express, accusing the company of copying designs and intellectual property infringement. Many of the suits against the retailer have ended in confidential settlements. 

Puma said the retailer’s entire business model is “based on trading off the established good will of reputable, name-brand companies.”

Puma recently obtained an injunction against Top Shop over similar allegations that the U.K.-based retailer was selling knockoffs of Rihanna’s Fenty shoe designs.

To stop the “irreparable injury to its business,” Puma asked the court for an immediate injunction on the sale of Forever 21’s allegedly infringing products and to declare the retailer a willful infringer of Puma’s intellectual property.

Puma is also seeking unspecified damages and asked that all profits realized from the sale of the allegedly infringing shoes be disgorged.

A representative for Forever 21 declined to comment citing company policy on pending litigation.

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