British designer Stella McCartney is reportedly suing Steve Madden for selling a "knock-off" version of her popular Falabella bag. In a complaint filed in New York federal court, the British Brand McCartney says the U.S designer Steve Madden's Btotally tote bag — which is more than $1,000 cheaper than McCartney's — “clearly seeks to mislead consumers,” the suit says and is a “near-identical” to the company's own Falabella bag.
The 22-page lawsuit charges Madden with "trade dress infringement, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices, trade dress dilution, and design patent infringement" involving the "marketing and sale of a knock-off". The suit states that not "long after plaintiff's Falabella collection of bags, with their distinctive trade dress, achieved prominence in the fashion industry," Steve Madden started "importing and selling a tote bag, that, although virtually identical in appearance to her design, is a poorly made copy."
Despite the McCartney brand owning two design patents on the bag, the present lawsuit is largely based on the claim that McCartney owns trade dress rights in the bag's overall look which the court documents state is “instantly recognisable”.
The suit goes on to assert that she is at greater risk of consumer confusion because she's had several high-profile collaborations with third-party brands in the past, like a 2005 collection for H&M and a more recent line for Gap, and makes the argument that “it is therefore entirely plausible that consumers will, on seeing defendant’s infringing bag, mistakenly believe that it is part of a diffusion line for plaintiff or is associated with or endorsed by plaintiff, given its striking similarity to the Falabella foldover tote.”
With regards to Madden, this is not the first time the brand has come under fire, only last year, Vogue reported that Steve Madden was hit with a lawsuit from Balenciaga over design copyright infringement of the design house's famous Motorcycle bag.
Lawyers for Stella McCartney are seeking an injunction to prevent Steve Madden from continuing to sell the bag. The label is also making a claim for unspecified damages.