BATTLING OVER ‘AUTHENTIC’

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — An “authentic” fracas between two intimate apparel giants proved to be short-lived.
When Linda J. Wachner, chief executive officer of both Authentic Fitness Corp. and The Warnaco Group, read back in March that the new Ralph Lauren Intimates collection by Sara Lee Corp. included a group called Authentic Underwear by Ralph Lauren, Wachner went into action.
She had Authentic Fitness issue letters through Stanley Silverstein, its vice president, secretary and general counsel, to Sara Lee Corp. and Polo Ralph Lauren to “cease and desist” from using Authentic’s “Underwear” trademark.
In addition to Authentic Underwear, Wachner noted, Authentic Fitness has since mid-1994 held a copyright for the word “authentic” used with numerous apparel categories — including Authentic Bra, Authentic Sleepwear, Authentic Basketball, Authentic Soccer and Authentic Golf.
“You name it — we’ve Authenticized it,” Wachner bristled. “They were told not to use it, and Sara Lee and Polo Ralph Lauren have agreed not to use the ‘Authentic’ name in any form of advertising, packaging, point-of-sale materials — or anything else.”
A spokeswoman for Polo Ralph Lauren said, “We haven’t come up with another name yet. The idea was it was authentic apparel you could use to exercise in, but there was a copyright problem.”
Officials from Sara Lee’s Ralph Lauren Intimates operation could not be reached.
This skirmish, however, is only a small part of the big battle that could be shaping up between Wachner and Sara Lee, as Ralph Lauren Intimates hits retail floors in late May, in direct competition with Warnaco’s powerhouse line of Calvin Klein Underwear. The initial shipments for Ralph Lauren Intimates are scheduled to reach 1,000 department and specialty store doors, each of which will have in-store shops by July. There are plans to expand the number of doors to 1,500 by 1998 — about the same number of doors in which the Calvin Klein men’s underwear and women’s innerwear lines are currently sold.

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