Over the past decade, influence marketing has changed the way advertising is handled by companies. Influencers have entered the marketing world by leveraging massive followings on social media platforms, and brands have recognised the value of the new category of advertising professionals.
Even though the use of influencers has become a mainstay of advertising, French legislation has yet to meet this evolution, resulting in an often opaque legal framework.
The broad spread-out provisions applicable to influencers also generate difficulties in understanding influencers legal status, in particular when they are underage. This notably raises the question whether influencers are employees of the brands they advertise for—and therefore subject to labor law—or if they should be considered independent contractors, with their relationship with brands subject to commercial legislation.
Such opaque legal framework raises questions about the applicable regime, as well as the legal status of influencers. Even though there is no specific regime for influencers, recent legislation was adopted in order to protect children influencers (see our previous alert here).
K&L Gates is proud to be hosting, as part of the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival, its annual fashion law seminar. As an Official Supporting Partner of the 2022 Festival, this year our session will cover recent changes to the Australian Designs Act and how these changes will assist fashion designers in protecting their valuable designs.
After recently suing Aldi over allegations of intellectual property infringement based on its Colin the Caterpillar cake and Christmas glitter gin, Marks & Spencer (M&S) now faces a “liti-gator” itself as it has recently been sued by Lacoste for allegedly infringing its crocodile logo (shown below) and related rights on a number of clothing and household products.
The Allegations We set out below a representation a selection of the alleging infringing products the subject of the complaint.
Lacoste, the luxury sportswear brand, wrote to M&S last year demanding that it cease advertising and selling various goods bearing crocodile logos or signs. M&S refused and now Lacoste is seeking an injunction on M&S and damages (among other things).
The Lacoste brand, which is named after the well-known tennis player René Lacoste who was nicknamed “the Crocodile,” has existed since 1933. As such, it has an extensive reputation worldwide and has ownership of a number of UK trade mark registrations, dating back to 1984. Lacoste is arguing that by using similar versions of its crocodile logo, which has built up a considerable reputation by the brand, M&S are not only creating a likelihood of confusion between the brands, but importantly, are taking advantage of the Lacoste mark.
What is interesting about Lacoste’s claims is that although the brand only owns trade mark registrations in the UK for the word CROCODILE and various representations of its logo, they are claiming that M&S’ use of different crocodile signs on products and the use of the word CROCODILE in relation to those goods constitutes trade mark infringement and passing off. These allegations are particularly interesting since M&S’ feature varying depictions of crocodiles. The claim is also in relation to a number of products sold by M&S that feature Roald Dahl’s crocodile character from The Enormous Crocodile, whose image would be licenced to M&S to use (shown below).
What’s to Come? Whilst M&S is yet to file its defence in the proceedings, statements from the brand indicate that it is likely that they will argue that their products merely feature depictions of real life animals and are not an infringement of Lacoste’s rights.
However, whatever the outcome of this case (if it is not settled in the meantime), it will be interesting to monitor it as the decision could have important lessons for trade mark owners and third parties on the scope of protection granted over not just their trade mark, but similar marks.
Reference: Lacoste, Lacoste E-Commerce and Lacoste UK Limited v Marks and Spencer P.L.C. (IL-2021-000093)
Through its Act no.2020-1266 dated 19 October 2020 (the Act), the French legislator elected to regulate the commercial exploitation of the images of children aged 16 and under on online platforms (Kidfluencers).
Despite the potentially lucrative consequences of these emerging practices, Kidfluencers operated in a legal vacuum which could have resulted in parents exploiting their children, without the latter reaping any financial benefits or regaining any control of their images upon coming of age.
The Australian Federal Court has ordered women’s active wear manufacturer and retailer, Lorna Jane Pty Ltd (Lorna Jane), to pay AU$5 million in penalties for making false and misleading representations to consumers, and engaging in conduct liable to mislead the public, in connection with the promotion and supply of its “LJ Shield Activewear”.
Mike Tyson, the famous former boxer, has sued Australian streetwear brand Culture Kings and its founders. Mr Tyson alleges the respondents have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct under the Australian Consumer Law for using his name, nicknames and likeness to sell t-shirts, without his permission. Mr Tyson alleges that Culture Kings’ t-shirts bear images of him, his name as well as his monikers “Iron Mike”, and “Kid Dynamite”.
In what will be welcomed by innovative design brands, on 14 July 2021, the General Court of the EU handed down a decision annulling the EUIPO and Board of Appeal’s decisions that a mark filed by Guerlain lacked distinctive character. This decision emphasises that a distinctiveness assessment of a three-dimensional mark must be undertaken by reference to the specifics of common practice in the market for the relevant products.
“Style is the only thing you can’t buy. It’s not in a shopping bag, a label, or a price tag. It’s something reflected from our soul to the outside world—an emotion.”
In this edition of Fashion Law, we have a huge selection of articles from around the world.
As many countries ease into a new way of living with/post COVID-19, the way we do business has changed. Some businesses managed to expand their offerings going online, while others needed to increase their brand protection to counteract copycats, trade mark and design infringements.