J.Crew named one of its cardigans the “Duquette Leopard Print Sweater” and is now in trouble for it.
Tony Duquette, an interior designer in the 1950’s, used leopard print liberally on fabrics, wallpaper, carpet, and other design elements. The company (the designer himself is deceased) is alleging that J.Crew “knowingly and willfully used the Duquette trademark without permission or license in connection with leopard print.” Tony Duquette called leopard its “signature theme,” according to WWD.
Hutton Wilkinson, President and Creative Director of Tony Duquette, Inc., said in a statement: “We filed this claim to ensure our trademarks are used appropriately and only with our permission.”
Can you actually trademark something as ubiquitous as leopard print? We’ll wait for the result of this suit to find out.
Update: We spoke to Anne Sterba, an attorney at Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, a law firm specializing in copyright and trademark infringement. Neither she nor her firm is involved with this case at all. She was not able to get a copy of the complaint since it's too new, but she was able to offer some clarification.
Sterba said, "If J. Crew used the Duquette term as a trademark to identify its type of sweater, Duquette would have a claim for trademark infringement of its federally registered mark(s)." And what about the right to trademark leopard print? She told us, "While in theory, you may be able to register a leopard print as trade dress, in this case, it would be difficult to do."