13 April 2009

Torts On Mall Street

A designer is suing discount mall clothing retailer Forever 21 for intellectual property violations. The case is a close one because clothing designs have limited protection under intellectual property laws (as do recipies), but Forever 21 has faced 50 lawsuits in three years and according to the presiding judge, "We note the extraordinary litigating history of this company, which raises the most serious questions as to whether it is a business that is predicated in large measure on the systematic infringement of competitors’ intellectual property."

Indeed, the near wholesale exclusion of fashion and recipies from intellectual property protection is a major and important natural experiment on the relationship between strong legal protections for ideas and the ability of businesses to establish viable business models. This case may be one that ends that experiment, or it could simply draw the minimal lines necessary to remain legal (the copy even included an arguable trademark badge form the original in the case referenced above).

Meanwhile, down the hall of the mall, Victoria's Secret is facing a products liability action alleging that formaldehyde resins in their bras cause rashes and skin problems. There are serious disputes of fact in the multi-district litigation.

Hat Tip: Above The Law and the TortsProf Blog.

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