Dr. Martens: A case of infringement

Fashion is an industry that prides itself on reinvention, keeping current and catering to all lifestyles. This is becoming increasingly more challenging in an era of rising fast fashion and the demanding Millennial and Generation X shoppers. As a result, brands such as Boohoo, Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing are always looking for styles or items to gain their consumer’s attention. However, in trying to feed this demand these brands have come under fire from celebrities and other brands from infringing the style and trade marks of others. Consequently, Air Max (the company that owns Dr. Martens) was not shy about taking legal action against Boohoo, Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing for infringing its iconic Dr. Martens shoe design.

Dr. Martens shoes are sought after for their sturdiness, durability and fashion status. Subsequently, it sent cease and decease letter to Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing when it identified that they were infringing its trade dress registration (the registration of a products packaging, design symbol or its dressing) in 2016. As Dr. Martens have a long-established reputation for the quality making it a desirable item, it claims that these fast-fashion brands are selling imitation styles to benefit off it. This in turn dilutes their brand and dependant on the quality of these imitations, it can cheapen the brand.

Boohoo, Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing face allegations of unfair competition, trade mark infringement and dilution, unfair competition and breach of contract to the US District Court for the Northern District of California. As consumers are inundated with various brands and products, it made commercial sense for Dr. Martens to protect its brand and its market share from imitation goods. In 2017, it had entered into a settlement agreement with Pretty Little Thing.

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