Urban Outfitters, an international clothing and accessories retailer is accused of trademark infringement in a recent lawsuit filed by the Navajo Nation. The suit claims that the retailer is using the Navajo name in their products without permission. The tribe alleges the retailer’s use of their name confuses and deceives consumers into thinking there is an association between the Navajo Nation and the retailer’s products and brand. And that use of the name and trademark unfairly trades off the fame, reputation and goodwill of the Navajo Nation.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act is a federal law cited in the lawsuit as cause for seeking damages. This law makes it illegal for a non-Indian business to represent a product as being made by a Native American Tribe or member of that tribe. Before congress amended this law in 1990 they performed studies which showed that fake Indian products were taking away millions of dollars from the legitimate market for products created by federally recognized tribes, according to a professor of law at the University of Colorado who specializes in Native American property rights.
Trademark law is designed to eliminate consumer confusion regarding a product name, brand or manufacturer. A trademark can be a word, name, symbol or even a device associated with a specific organization. There are numerous examples of trademarked brand names being used as identifiers for everyday products such as Kleenex tissues or Band-Aid bandages. When a registered trademark is infringed upon it usually involves claims of damages, either monetary or through damage to a brand name or reputation.
If you think your trademark, copyright or patent rights have been infringed upon, an intellectual property rights attorney can help you determine if you have a case, as well as provide direction on how to proceed with a claim if you do decide to pursue it.
The lawsuit named a number of products it finds problematic, including the marketing of a flask with the Navajo name attached to it. After filing a cease-and-desist order last fall Urban Outfitters began removing references to “Navajo” in some product descriptions, but some in-store displays and one online store continued to use the Navajo, or “Navaho” reference or label in describing some of its items.
Source: WIBW.com “Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters For Alleged Trademark Infringement,” Stephanie Schultz, March 2, 2012