Before 2017

Sugartown Takes on Old Navy in Copyright Infringement Action over Lilly Pulitzer Fashion Designs

Sugartown Worldwide, LLC (“Sugartown”), a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania, filed suit for copyright infringement, money damages, injunctive relief, seeking destruction of infringing materials, costs, and attorneys’ fees against Old Navy (Apparel), LLC, Old Navy, LLC (collectively “Old Navy“), and The Gap (“Gap”) (altogether the “Defendants”).

Sugartown owns the Lilly Pulitzer trademarks under which it markets and distributes Lilly Pulitzer apparel and accessories, including within the Northern District of Georgia.  The district is also home to Sugartown’s parent company and many of its executives and corporate officers.  The Defendants are California based companies registered in Delaware and sell products throughout the country, including in this District, through retail outlets and over the Internet.

According to the complaint, Lilly Pulitzer began designing, manufacturing, and selling bright and colorful prints on distinctive fashion apparel in the 1950’s.  In 1959 Lilly Pulitzer, Inc., was founded and the rights to the brand were purchased by Sugartown in 1993, which continued the creation of distinctive designs with its own design team.  There are over 100 Lilly Pulitzer retail stores in the United States operated by Sugartown or through licensing agreements.  In addition, Lilly Pulitzer designs are sold over the Internet and by major department stores and individually owned stores.

The Lilly Pulitzer design team creates original artwork, often printed on canvas, which are then registered with the United States Copyright Office.  This artwork is then used with color modifications on fabric which comprises Lilly Pulitzer products.  The complaint establishes the credentials of the original artwork for two designs identified as the High Tide Design and the Sparks Fly Design, both of which were duly copyrighted.  

Derivations of these patterns were designed in 2013 and introduced on Lilly Putitzer products in 2014.  The advertising and wide distribution serves as the basis for allegations that Defendants had access to the patterns.  The gravamen of Sugartown’s complaint is that these patterns were copied by Defendants and substantially similar designs were introduced by Defendants thereafter as their own products.  The complaint highlights consumer comments on social media as to the close similarity of the designs and depicts in the complaint itself side-by-side comparisons, two of which are shown below:

By its complaint Sugartown seeks to stem the tide of Defendants’ alleged copying and let the sparks fly where they must (and not fly where they must not).
Sugartown Worldwide, LLC v. Old Navy (Apparel), LLC, Old Navy, LLC, and The Gap, Inc., 1:15-CV-02633-ELR, United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, filed July 24, 2015, before Judge Eleanor L. Ross.

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