New York — The Limited Inc. is not responsible for the alleged infringing activities of its wholly owned subsidiary, Express Inc., a federal court judge here has ruled.
Banff Ltd., a knitwear manufacturer, filed suit against Limited and Express in April 1993 after it said it discovered Express was selling alleged knockoffs of its Aran fisherman’s sweater.
Banff said that even if Limited did not know of Express’ activities, as a parent it was still a “vicarious infringer.”
Limited, however, sought a summary judgment in the case, arguing that it was not responsible for any of Express’ infringing activities because they are two separate entities with different headquarters and buyers.
In a written opinion, Judge Charles S. Haight agreed, saying that in order to prove a parent company liable, it must be shown the parent “has done more in relation to the infringing activity than simply be the parent.
“I think it is clear that Limited has shown that it did not exercise sufficient control over Express with regard to the allegedly infringing sweater for it to be vicariously liable,” he wrote.
In the same ruling, the judge refused to grant a summary judgment for Express, which had sought to throw the case out on the grounds that the allegedly infringing sweater is not that distinctive.
Haight said Express had “failed to show that a reasonable fact-finder could not find Banff’s trade dress to be inherently distinctive.”
— Fairchild News Service

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