NIPON SUES LESLIE FAY OVER TACTICS
Byline: Jeff Siegel
NEW YORK — Albert Nipon has filed suit against The Leslie Fay Cos. in bankruptcy court, accusing the company of “intentionally interfering” with his latest business venture, American Pop Marketing Group Inc.
Nipon charged Leslie Fay with intimidating American Pop’s retailers and licensees by threatening them with lawsuits if they sell American Pop products, which feature labels and tags that say the merchandise is “Created by Albert Nipon.”
For example, Nipon said he was planning to sell American Pop coats through a licensing agreement with Ressler Enterprises, but, it was charged, continued threats of litigation by Leslie Fay caused Ressler to pull out of the deal.
A Leslie Fay spokesman said Wednesday the company is reviewing the complaint and “intends to take whatever actions necessary to fully protect the Albert Nipon trademark.”
In the suit, Nipon claims Leslie Fay has also interfered with its deal with Kantor Bros. Neckwear Inc. The agreement would have put the American Pop Created by Albert Nipon trademark on men’s neckwear, suspenders, boxer underwear and coordinating T-shirts.
During a trade show in Las Vegas last summer, Leslie Fay’s licensee, Castle Neckwear, warned customers that Leslie Fay would sue “Kantor and its customers if Kantor continued doing business with Nipon and American Pop,” Nipon charges in the suit.
The suit marks the latest legal fight between Nipon and Leslie Fay over who owns the rights to the Albert Nipon name, in various configurations.
Nipon says that although he sold the Albert Nipon trademark to Leslie Fay in 1988, the deal does not stop Nipon and American Pop from “the right to freely compete and freely use the Nipon name, an asset which has never been conveyed to [Leslie Fay].”
Since 1988, Leslie Fay has produced women’s suits and sportswear under the Albert Nipon, Nipon Boutique and Nipon Studio labels. Those labels are in limbo, however, pending the outcome of the company’s Chapter 11 reorganization.
Nipon is seeking a judgment that Leslie Fay’s rejection of his employment agreement in 1994 terminates a noncompete clause he signed with the company, and that the American Pop name used with the Nipon name does not “collide with” the trademarks that were sold to Leslie Fay.
The complaint also seeks unspecified punitive damages against Leslie Fay for “threatening customers and business relations of American Pop” and causing harm to the label.
Separately, Leslie Fay has agreed to pay Albert Nipon, his wife, Pearl, and their son, Laurence, who is a former president of the Nipon division, a total of $225,000 to settle their pre-petition claims against the company.
The Nipon family had originally sought about $23 million from Leslie Fay for unpaid royalties and damages resulting from the rejection by the company of their employment agreements.
Leslie Fay said in court papers that the agreement “avoids the uncertainty and risk inherent in litigation.” — Fairchild News Service