Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's also the surest way to legal action.
Harajuku Lovers, one of the clothing lines under Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. umbrella, has filed a federal lawsuit against fashion megachain Forever 21, claiming the discount retailer has illegally ripped off Harajuku's designs.
In the complaint filed June 14 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Harajuku Lovers alleges false designation of origin, trademark infringement, dilution and unfair competition against the chain for its alleged sartorial pilfering. (View the court docs here.)
"We feel that both our L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers designs have been infringed upon by Forever 21 and we plan to vigorously protect our intellectual property," Stefani rep Katie Adams told E! News.
Part of their vigorous defense plan includes the demand for the issue to be settled at a jury trial.
At issue is Harajuku's trademark hearts and heart-box designs, which have featured in their black, white and red glory on countless articles of clothing, handbags and other accessories and which, per the suit, have begun appearing in nearly identical black, white and red glory on countless articles of clothing, handbags and other accessories under the Forever 21 brand.
Stefani's company alleges the Forever 21 mockups are "virtually indistinguishable" to those of the originating brand. The difference lies in the wording accompanying the cutesy hearts and Japanese characters—whereas Harajuku Lovers features the words "Harajuku Lovers" around the characters, Forever 21's designs featured the words "Forever Love."
The lawsuit deems the small text change "inconspicuous" and says it's so "unlikely to go unnoticed by a consumer" as to be "confusingly similar" to the untrained eye. Except, of course, once those untrained eyes direct their focus to the pricetag.
The court papers feature images of both to show how closely the designs resemble each other.
As Stefani's company sees it, Harajuku Lovers is entitled not only to monetary damages but to Forever 21's profits and gains and punitive damages as well, alleging as they do that the company's wrongful acts were of a "willful nature."
The complaint further alleges that Forever 21's unlawful co-opting of the design caused the originals to lessen in value as a result of the market dilution and also wrongfully implied that Stefani endorsed the bargain chain.
Not content to just recoup expenses from the alleged style stealers, Stefani's henchman are also requesting that Forever 21 not only cease production on the disputed designs, but destroy any existing goods that bear the Harajuku mark.
As it is, Stefani isn't the only designer to take issue with Forever 21's fabric fabrications.
In March, veteran designer Diane von Furstenberg also filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the chain in Manhattan Superior Court, alleging they ripped off not only the design but patterns and colors of her in-demand Ceisier and Aubrey dresses at a fraction of the price.