A housewife in New Jersey was ordered to pay what could add up to more than $1 million to apparel and accessories company Vineyard Vines on Wednesday. The ruling is part of an unresolved trademark case that began in 2014.
But this is no ordinary housewife. Margaret Josephs is the brains behind the Macbeth Collection, an apparel, accessory and home goods brand, and a cast member on Bravo’s television show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
Back in 2014, before she became a television personality, Josephs was running the Macbeth Collection. The same year Vineyard Vines filed a suit against the Macbeth Collection for trademark infringement of its signature “Whale Design,” asking for $12 million in damages.
In court documents, Vineyard Vines said it began using the little whale on its clothing and accessories as far back as 2003.
“One of the most well-known symbols of the Vineyard brand is its fanciful whale design,” the 2014 court documents claimed.
Items from the Macbeth Collection, including a toiletry case, had “nearly exact duplications” of the whale, the court documents went on to say.
Negotiations continued throughout 2015. Then finally, Josephs, who studied fashion and marketing at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and founded the Macbeth Collection in 1999, was ordered to pay $300,000, but only paid about half that amount, according to court documents.
In Wednesday’s judgment, a Connecticut district court ordered Josephs to pay $110,000, the unpaid portion of the original court order, and another $500,000 for damages. In addition, Josephs will have to cough up a yet-to-be determined amount for Vineyard Vines’ legal fees.
But the housewife said the case is still in active litigation and is sure it will be overturned soon.
She said the original complaint was a licensing issue with a “whale similar to [Vineyard Vines’] whale. And that was it,” and described the whole ordeal as “draining.”
“It’s been going on for so long,” Josephs said. “It’s very hard for a smaller, woman-owned company to defend itself against a much larger company, even then they’re in the right.”
Vineyard Vines did not respond to a request for comment.