4 February 2020CopyrightSarah Morgan

Design studio takes aim at Steve Madden in copyright claim

Independent design studio Wildflower + Co has accused fashion brand Steve Madden of creating more than 100 different products, including handbags, which infringe its copyright for four embroidered patches.

In its suit, filed on Monday, February 3 at the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Wildflower also named online platform Amazon, as well as retailers Macy’s and Nordstrom as defendants, because they’d bought and resold the allegedly infringing goods.

“Hoping to capitalise on the renewed mainstream popularity of embroidered patches—a retro fashion trend that independent brands like Wildflower helped to revitalise—Steve Madden began selling handbags featuring embroidered patches in or around 2017,” alleged the suit.

Brooklyn-based Wildflower claimed that, despite having “plentiful resources to create original artwork and designs for its products”, the fashion brand (which reported net sales of $1.65 billion in 2018) created and sold more than 100 products that featured nearly identical copies of Wildflower’s embroidered patches.

Wildflower’s patches, such as the Evil Eye patch and Hamsa patch, are featured on Steve Madden’s Bangela clutch bag and at least two variations of the Btasha backpack, according to the suit.

Back in March 2018, Wildflower sent a cease-and-desist letter to the fashion brand, requesting basic sales data for the products in order to “have a productive discussion regarding a potential amicable resolution”.

While Steve Madden acknowledged receipt of the letter, the brand reportedly failed to provide the requested information and, in May 2018, responded with a “terse, four-sentence letter consisting entirely of a conclusory denial that it had ‘committed any act of copyright infringement’ and an assertion that it ‘now consider[ed] this matter closed’”.

Wildflower has now claimed that the fashion brand hasn’t shown any interest in cooperating with it or even discussing an amicable resolution.

After conducting its own investigation, and reportedly finding more than 100 infringing products, the design studio again got in contact with Steve Madden.

“Once again, Steve Madden refused to acknowledge or resolve the infringement. Since then, Steve Madden has repeatedly provided incomplete or inconsistent sales information, frustrating our repeated attempts at settlement and necessitating the filing of this action,” said the complaint.

Wildflower is now seeking profits, $25,000 for each instance where Steve Madden reportedly removed Wildflower’s copyright management information (such as its name and logo) and $25,000 for each time the brand allegedly placed its own name on the goods.

This isn’t the first time Steve Madden has found itself in hot water over IP.

In 2017, fashion brand Valentino accused Steve Madden of copying its ‘Double purse’ design and a ‘Camubutterfly strap design’, which is a handbag strap that looks like a guitar strap with a butterfly design.

Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) also took issue with Steve Madden’s shoes, leading Steve Madden to file a strongly-worded lawsuit against YSL in a pre-emptive strike against the French company.

The parties settled the dispute, which concerned design patent infringement and trade dress violations, in May 2019.

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6 June 2017   Steve Madden, a fashion company, has landed itself in hot water with rival Valentino over purses and strap designs.
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