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Trademark Infringement: Vogue v. Victoria Small Biz

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

The world of fashion is no place for the delicate, no matter what those runway models may look like. If you cross someone in the business of fashion, they will not hesitate to put a stiletto through you; don't doubt it for a minute. Remember the case of the House of Balenciaga suing shoe maker Steve Madden for copying its (allegedly ugly) Lego heels? The current case throws an even sharper point.

According to a report by The Vancouver Sun, fashion bible Vogue sent a cease and desist letter to a fledging charity in Victoria B.C., for alleged trademark infringement. If you are a die-hard fashionista, you will recall that this past September Vogue magazine launched its "Fashion's Night Out" in New York City. This evening of fashion fun, frolic and big-time spending was a concerted effort to help lift that sector of the economy out of the doldrums. It must have worked fairly well, because it seems Vogue is planning a repeat this year which will cover cities from "Brooklyn to Brazil." Well, Brazil isn't a city, but it sounds good.

In anticipation of further economic benefit, Vogue alleges they have trademarked the phrase "Fashion's Night Out." Trademark protection allows a maker a set word, name, symbol or device to indicate the source of their goods (or services) to distinguish them from those of others. If a name or mark is too similar, and might confuse consumers as to the source of the goods or services, the mark owner can bring a trademark infringement suit to protect their mark and brand.

So, when a Victoria charity organized local businesses for a fashion show and called it "Victoria Fashion's Night Out" Vogue swooped down on them faster than a fashion hound snaps up a Dior gown at a thrift store. According to The Sun, Vogue's lawyers wrote, "Our client did not consent to use of its Fashion's Night Out trademark by your organization or its members and is extremely concerned by this unauthorized use of its intellectual property."

What can a little charity do? The night before the event, they changed the name. It is now known as "Victoria's Fashion Night," according to their own attorney, David Mulroney who wisely seems to have advised avoiding a fight with the big kids on the block. Hope Victoria enjoyed her night out, regardless.

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