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With "beaded Thunderbird," Target sued over alleged trademark infringement

Without a doubt, there are lots of fans of "fast fashion" here in Sacramento. Companies like H&M and BCBG have made pretty big business out of taking "inspiration" from runway looks by pricey designers and quickly getting affordable versions into stores so regular people, rather than just celebrities or socialites, can buy them.

So, is this practice acceptable? Or is it intellectual property infringement?

As is often the case in legal matters, the answer is: It depends.

Now, copying a Chanel dress and putting a Chanel tag on it would, of course, be violating Chanel's copyrights and trademarks. But creating a dress that is similar to a dress made by Chanel might not be. After all, there are only so many ways to make a dress and there's nothing wrong with fairly competing for fans of a certain look.

That's a difficult line to walk, of course, as one big retailer found out recently.

Target Corp. was recently sued by Minnetonka Moccasin Inc., which claimed that a Target brand shoe infringed on its trademarked "beaded Thunderbird" design. Evidently, Target had approached Minnetonka Moccasin about selling its shoes in Target stores and had been rebuffed. If Minnetonka Moccasin is to be believed, Target then just made its own version and unfairly copied Minnetonka Moccasin's design.

Now, merely selling a moccasin would not likely be a violation of Minnetonka Moccasin's intellectual property. No one company could trademark, copyright or patent something as basic as a moccasin (or, for that matter, "pants," "shoes" "book" "wine glass"etc.) Where Target may have crossed the line was when it gave the shoes a design that looked very similar to Minnetonka Moccasin's trademark "beaded Thunderbird."

Minnetonka Moccasin filed suit over the shoe last week. We will be watching this case with interest. If anything noteworthy develops, we will be sure to bring you news here on this blog.

Source: The Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Target accused of hometown knockoff," John Ewoldt, Sept. 26, 2012

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