Aeropostale, the struggling teen retailer, is going after fast-fashion behemoth H&M for allegedly stealing its designs. At the center of the dispute: the phrase "LIVE LOVE DREAM."
Aeropostale claims that H&M has been infringing on its U.S.-registered trademarks by selling merchandise emblazoned with that phrase, as well as the number "87," which corresponds with the year that Aeropostale opened its first standalone store, according to a complaint filed in New York federal court on Thursday. Aeropostale said its lawyers contacted Stockholm-based H&M in March to stop using "LIVE LOVE DREAM" on some graphic T-shirts and tote bags, as Aeropostale recently started a sub-brand with that name. H&M, in an April 11 response, said that Aeropostale wouldn't be able to prove likelihood of customer confusion from the use and cited protection through the First Amendment.
Aeropostale said that while awaiting H&M's response, it discovered a number of other infringements, according to the complaint. The retailer cited H&M's use of marks featuring the number "87" and labels with the word "AEROSPACE" over a drawing of an airplane, saying that such labels "evoke" the AERO trademark. Law360 first reported on the lawsuit Thursday.
"Airplane imagery has served as a common design element in Aeropostale's clothing, as Aeropostale's name is a reference to Compagnie Generate Aeropostale, a French airmail service from the early 20th century," the retailer said in its complaint.
What makes the lawsuit especially contentious is that Aeropostale has struggled recently, as teens have largely ditched the retailer in favor of fast-fashion rivals like Forever 21 and H&M in recent years, drawn to their vast, quickly changing array of merchandise at low prices.
H&M has been pursuing a rapid expansion in the U.S., reporting just over $2 billion in U.S. sales last year through 305 stores and a website that launched in August. Aeropostale, on the other hand, is closing stores, and despite its long history in the U.S., just posted $2 billion in annual sales through the web and 1,100 stores. Aeropostale's stock, in turn, has been crushed, falling nearly 80% in the past two years.
In the lawsuit, Aeropostale claims that a number of H&M pieces could be confused for Aeropostale items.
"H&M's website and stores contain many Aeropostale 'look alike' items and items bearing a logo consisting of a large letter 'A' (with no indication of what the 'A' stands for), which further increases the likelihood of confusion caused by H&M's use of marks that are the same as, or substantially the same as, Aeropostale's LIVE LOVE DREAM, 87, and AEROPOSTALE marks," the retailer said.
Aeropostale wants the court to order H&M to destroy the allegedly infringing items and related materials, and is seeking compensation from the goods.
Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
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