A men’s cardigan is creating a legal headache for Tom Ford.
The designer’s company, along with affiliated retailers Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, were sued Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court by the only son of the late actor Steve McQueen. Chadwick McQueen is accusing the designer of improperly trading on his father’s image and trademarks by marketing and selling for about $2,400 a style of sweater, marketed as the “McQueen cardigan.”
McQueen, who maintains his father’s trust, argued in his complaint that a wool cardigan with a shawl collar, like the Tom Ford garment at issue, is one of the “sartorial items that in fact became synonymous with McQueen.”
Citing a blog on fashion from movies and TV, McQueen added that his father “could also be called the king of the cardigan, considering his role in reestablishing the sweater as a functional and fashionable garment for young rebels rather than as the staid staple of TV dads like Ward Cleaver.”
As for the legality of the sweater being described with reference to the late actor, McQueen said the family and the trust over the last 30 years “has carefully and deliberately limited the projects featuring Steve McQueen” and that it owns trademarks covering the name and its use on apparel. The trust has licensed the name for use at times, however, including a current deal with Barbour for some outerwear.
McQueen also noted the trust’s “various statuary and common law rights of publicity in the Steve McQueen likeness and persona.”
Moreover, McQueen claims that Tom Ford “refused” his request to stop use of the MCQueen name related to the sweaters.
As for Tom Ford, a company spokeswoman declined to comment on pending litigation, citing company policy, but said: “We look forward to vigorously defending our rights.”
A representative of Neiman Marcus, which owns Bergdorf Goodman, could not be reached for comment.
With Ford’s alleged use of the McQueen name, and the retailers’ related use in online marketing and descriptions, McQueen claims that a “false perception” of authorization has been created. He’s accusing Ford and the retailers of trademark infringement, false endorsement and designation of origin, unfair competition and violation of McQueen’s right to publicity.
“By unfairly benefiting from the public attention and exclusivity that would have accompanied an authorized relationship with the McQueen family, defendants have deprived the family of the commensurate compensation for use of the Steve McQueen name and likeness,” McQueen writes in the complaint.
He’s asking the court to permanently enjoin Ford from designing and selling the sweater and to order the destruction of all related marketing materials, along with an award of all profits realized from the sale of the sweaters and compensatory damages of at least $1 million. He’s also seeking an additional $2 million per trademark being infringed, but it’s unclear how many registered trademarks the trust actually has.
McQueen has previously sued over the use of his father’s name and likeness, last year going after Ferrari. That case appears to have settled out of court.