Unlocking Interlocking Trademarks and their Laws

In Will Washington IV’s world of high end fashion retailing, not understanding trademark laws and the effects of selling counterfeit items can scare away clients and have legal ramifications.

A baseball cap with the Ed Hardy logo. Authentic or Counterfeit? (Photo: Michelle Turner)

“It is very important to understand trademark laws because it is illegal to sell or produce counterfeit goods,” explains Washington. He continued, “Additionally, the availability of un-trademarked goods can harm your reputation with your customers. In some cases, it can scare away a potential new client.”


The Legality of the Trademark 

In recent months, fashion giants such Guess and Urban Outfitters  have been involved in lawsuits over trademark infringements regarding goods they have marketed.

A scarf featuring Louis Vuitton’s trademarked interlocking LV symbol (Photo: Michelle Turner).

As explained by Mary Kate Brennan, Dean’s Fellow at the Fashion Law Institute, “Trademarks are symbols used to denote the source of goods – like that polo pony on your shirt or that swoosh on your sneaker. Trademark infringement is a violation that occurs when someone other than the owner of the trademark uses that mark without permission. “ Brennan added, “To tell whether an infringement has taken place, you must first determine the owner of the trademark.”

“Take, for example, Louis Vuitton’s interlocking LV trademark. If someone other than the brand owner were to place the LV trademark on handbags or other products without the consent of the company, then a trademark infringement has occurred.  If the unauthorized copy is almost exact, the item in question is known as a ‘counterfeit.’ If the copy is not identical but could still confuse a consumer, then there’s still trademark infringement – but determining how close is too close may require a judgment call by a court. Trademark cases are settled at a federal level. Occasionally, state laws provide additional protection.”

A Meiguogirl original handbag awaiting trademark protection (Photo: Michelle Turner).

Retail Protection 

From a retail perspective, Washington suggests that both retailers and purchasers can protect themselves by “finding out the official labels and symbols that a designer uses, as well as the exact location and the exact amount used on each product” in order to prevent selling or purchasing counterfeit fashion. This includes online shopping.Fashion.NYC.2020 study projected online sales will increase 10% annually between now and 2020. “The growth of the internet has made it easier to get counterfeit out to the public so (wholesale and retail) consumers must be ever vigilant,” cautions Washington.



Will Washington IV can be reached via email champw4@gmail.com. 

Mary Kate Brennan can be reached via The Fashion Law Institute at info@fashionlawinstitute.com. 

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