19 October 2018Trademarks

Rihanna and Puma targeted in ‘FU’ trademark suit

Music artist Rihanna’s fashion company—which sells goods in association with sports retailer Puma—is at the centre of a trademark lawsuit.

American fashion brand Freedom United filed its complaint (pdf) at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on October 10.

Freedom United sells clothing, accessories, and related items through its e-commerce platform, as well as boutique retail stores in the US.

Freedom United owns a figurative trademark (4,663,180) featuring the abbreviation ‘FU’ above the words ‘Freedom United’, in international class 25 for hats, sandals, and t-shirts.

The fashion brand also claims to own a figurative trademark (3,354,124) depicting a bird with the word ‘Freedom’ featured in its centre. However, according to US Patent and Trademark Office records, this mark was cancelled in July 2018.

Freedom United said that the two registrations give it “exclusive ownership” of the marks.

The fashion brand claimed that its products have been worn and promoted by those associated with Rihanna’s own brand, Fenty, including by the music artist herself.

However, Rihanna, in collaboration with Puma, is now using a confusingly similar trademark to the ‘FU’ ones in relation to her Fenty brand, the complaint alleged.

As explained in the suit, Puma announced a multi-year partnership with Rihanna in 2014, at which point Rihanna became Puma’s women’s creative director. Puma now sells the Fenty brand, which includes footwear and clothing.

Freedom United explained that items in Puma’s Fenty range, which are also sold via third parties such as Amazon, Nordstrom, and Footlocker, feature the abbreviation ‘F.U.’ and the words ‘Freedom United’.

For example, sweatshirts, necklaces, and footwear bear the mark, the fashion brand said, noting that these products are similar to its own.

Rihanna was wearing Freedom United’s products “long before she launched her confusingly similar ‘F.U. branded goods”, the complaint said, referring to social media posts and press pictures of Rihanna and her associates wearing the brand as early as 2007.

The artist’s line of clothing and accessories featuring the ‘F.U.’ marks began in 2017, according to Freedom United, and Rihanna and Puma adopted the confusingly similar branding with the intention to confuse consumers into believing that the Fenty products are associated with Freedom United.

Freedom United accused Rihanna, Fenty, and Puma of trademark infringement, unfair competition, passing off, business injury, and unjust enrichment.

The fashion brand asked the court to preliminarily and permanently restrain them from using the ‘FU’ name and branding, or “otherwise unfairly competing” with Freedom United in any way.

Freedom United also asked for enhanced damages and all profits gained from the sale of the allegedly infringing products, in addition to attorneys’ fees and costs.

This is not the first time that Rihanna’s range at Puma has been the topic of an IP dispute. Last year, Puma accused fashion retailer Forever 21 of infringing its trade dress, design patents, and copyright related to Fenty footwear.

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More on this story

10 January 2018   Fashion retailer Forever 21 is refusing to lie down in a legal fight that sportswear company Puma began in April last year and is attempting to bring singer Rihanna into the brawl.
16 January 2019   Rihanna has filed a trademark lawsuit against her father and his business partner for allegedly fraudulently representing that their entertainment company is associated with the singer.
24 December 2020   Rihanna has found herself at the centre of a copyright lawsuit which revolves around an Instagram post advertising the singer’s fashion brand, Fenty.