Last April U.S. fashion label Off-White by Virgil Abloh filed a trademark infringement complaint against jewellery brand Rastaclat for using quotation marks around words and that its bracelet "was infringing several Off-White trademarks."
According to the World Intellectual Property Review (WIPR), Off-White said it has extensively used quotation marks around terms in commerce, and the public has come to recognise such quotation marks as being a source identifier for the brand.
Rastaclat’s bracelet also features a red zip tie, which Off-White in its complaint said it has a number of pending trademark applications including the “Off-White Red Zip Tie” which it also uses on a number of its items. So far so confusing.
While both parties have reportedly settled out of court, Off-White is no stranger to copyright disputes and often finds itself on the receiving end of infringement complaints.
Off-White vs OffWhite Co.
In New York this month Abloh received a complaint of a violation of copyright from OffWhite Co., spelled without a hyphen, at the federal court in New York City. The creative agency alleges that Off-White has gone too close to the identity of the company founded 15 years before the streetwear brand was launched. Furthermore, Abloh's Off-White is said to be obscuring the possibilities of OffWhite Co. to appear in search engines and on social networks, and having monopolised the use of the hashtag #OffWhite in unfair competition.
Mystery of the @off____white logo solved! Likely swiped from a 1965 design for Glasgow Airport by Kinnear, Calvert & Associates, the UK design group is credited for creating the model for modern road signage throughout the world. So yeah...literal street appropriation if you will lol. Swipe through for some SERIOUS receipts (and yet another @rafsimons homage). Gotta love @taschen when creativity runs dry at the studio lol. • #offwhite #virgilabloh #menswear #streetwear #logo #modernism #taschen #glasgow #glasgowairport #airport #kinneircalvertassociates #jockkinneir #margaretcalvert #hypebeast #hypebae #louisvuitton #graphicdesign #communicationdesign #highsnobiety #snobshots #wiwt #ootd #mysterysolved #streetstyle #logomania #virgilabloh #dietprada
Possibly the most blatant copying of a trademark is Off-White's arrow logo, which bears a near literal iteration to that of Glasgow Airport's logo, designed by Margaret Calvert in the 1960s. Interestingly, Calvert also designed a paint scheme for the airport's vehicles, forklift trucks and flight ladders, consisting of the arrow logo juxtaposed with yellow striped tops so that they are clearly visible from the air. Off-White also uses a similar stripe pattern for its branding.
Take a trip down copyright lane and two years ago Off-White sought federal trademark protection when Paige Denim claimed the vertical stripes Off-White uses has been a signature branding design for upmarket jeans company since 2005. Off-White subsequently filed a suit stating its diagonal stripe trademark did not infringe on Paige's striped patterns.
It's all in the stripes
One year ago Oslo-based sportswear company Helly Hansen alleged Off-White's logo to be confusingly similar to Helly Hansen’s HH Stripe Logo. At the time Helly Hansen filed a suit in the federal court in Illinois seeking monetary damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and a violation of Illinois’ Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
It is clear that fashion auteurs often draw on past inspiration with the reasoning that their interpretations are used in a more contemporary and thus novel way. This practise has by and large been accepted by the fashion industry and public alike, and the reason why the high street sells clothes that quite literally appear to have walked off the luxury brand catwalks and straight into their stores. But when those who liberally 'copy' references and then point the finger when other companies are inspired by them, that the power of big companies becomes apparent when they so easily wipe the grey areas clean. Or white in this case.
Photo credits: Off-White Facebook