Celebrity product lines often mean big business. Several celebrity clothing lines achieved great success since their inception. For example, Jessica Simpson’s line of clothing and shoes enjoys tremendous commercial success. Similarly, Kanye West enjoys enormous success with his Yeezy clothing line. Rihanna’s Fenty label previously achieved success with a beauty line, a lingerie line, and a sports apparel line with Puma. Encouraged by this success, the label launched a luxury clothing line earlier this year. Normally, before launching a product, the company conducts a search and clearance of any potential trademark. Sometimes, however, a name may fall through the cracks. Such may be the case with Rihanna’s “Spoiled Brat” anklet socks.
SPOILED BRAT History
On July 22, 2020, the owner of Trademark Registration No. 1825225 for SPOILED BRAT®, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Stance Inc. (“Stance”), among others. The lawsuit alleges trademark infringement, among other allegations, of unauthorized use of the trademark on a line of anklet socks by singer Rihanna. Steve Hechtman (“Hechtman”), a Florida resident from Safety Harbor, recently dismissed the case with prejudice in response to an undisclosed settlement agreement.
The SPOILED BRAT® trademark registered for various types of clothing, including socks, on March 8, 1994. The mark claims a first use in commerce of October 6, 1989. Hechtman obtained ownership of the mark by assignment on October 27, 2009. Hechtman filed all continued use statements to date and the mark remains in use.
The complaint alleges that Stance willfully infringed the SPOILED BRAT® mark by advertising and selling merchandise, specifically anklet socks, labeled as Rihanna “Spoiled Brat” Anklet Socks. The complaint further alleges the sale of the socks is likely to cause a likelihood of confusion for customers with the goods sold under SPOILED BRAT® mark. Both brick and mortar stores as well as online retailers, such as Amazon, sold the goods according to the complaint.
In determining trademark infringement, one must examine whether a likelihood of confusion exists. A likelihood of confusion exists where an average consumer is likely to be confused as to the source of the goods. In the instant case, the marks are phonetically and grammatically the same. The marks are also marketed to the same consumer base and trade channels. Further, the marks represent the same goods, i.e. clothing including socks. As such, one can envision a likelihood of consumer confusion as to the source of the goods.
In choosing a trademark, conduct a search beforehand to ensure no one else is using the mark in commerce. After obtaining a trademark, a trademark owner must remain vigilant and diligently police their marks for potential infringement. In doing so, the trademark owner prevents dilution of the mark as well as potential consumer confusion. In the instant case, Hechtman policed his mark and obtained an undisclosed settlement for the purported infringement. As noted in a previous blog post, in the event the parties reach an amicable agreement, settlement is beneficial to avoid high litigation costs.