Navajo sues Urban Outfitters over product names
By Felicia Fonseca
The lawsuit filed late Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico alleges trademark violations and violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which makes it illegal to sell arts or crafts in a way to falsely suggest they're made by American Indians when they're not.
The tribe has about 10 registered trademarks on the Navajo name that cover clothing, footwear, online retail sales, household products and textiles. Tribal justice officials said they're intent on protecting what they believe are among the tribe's most valuable assets.
"The fame or reputation of the Navajo name and marks is such that, when defendant uses the `Navajo' and `Navaho' marks with its goods and services, a connection with the Navajo Nation is falsely presumed," the lawsuit states.
Other defenses include claiming no likelihood of consumer confusion between an authorized Navajo clothing item and the panty, using alternate spellings of "Navajo" and arguing that the contested product isn't a handicraft, she said.
But she and New York-based fashion lawyer Joseph F. Murphy Jr., agree the trademark infringement is clear. Both pointed to a history in which the Navajo Nation lost real property and now is fighting to protect intellectual property.
"That's what disgusts me about this situation," Murphy said. "I, like many people, thought it would have been resolved. But apparently Urban Outfitters declined to write the big apology and may have to write the big check."
By Chelsea Vowel
Urban Outfitters responded with this back in October:
“Like many other fashion brands, we interpret trends and will continue to do so for years to come,” he said. “The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term ‘Navajo’ have been cycling thru fashion, fine art and design for the last few years.”
This is true, but won’t save Urban Outfitters from being held accountable for their trademark infringement. “Everyone else does it” is not a legal defence.