Skip to main content

OFF-BRAND - How a high-fashion brand and a local ice cream shop have come to blows over intellectual property


How a high-fashion brand and an ice cream shop have come to blows over intellectual property

In the various industries that are out there, not too many are as different as fashion and ice cream. One is involved in providing happiness, comfort and everything nice in this world and that other provides a sharp reminder that maybe that extra scoop of ice cream was too much. But suffice to say, a rift between the two industries is not something that you would expect to find. 

But as hype culture and the obsessive fandom on the internet have grown, the industries have been growing closer and closer together. But sadly, not in the way you think, we are still a few years off wearable ice cream. Instead, there is now a good chance that your local ice creamery sells merchandise. Less impressive, for sure. But this has become a staple for restaurants with even just a modicum of goodwill attached to their name and why not? If customers are willing to pay an extra $50 so that people will mistake them as an 'off the clock' employee, then go for it. However, it is always important to keep in mind that merely the fact that a store does not typically deal in goods from a particular industry, this does not exempt that store from the standard business conventions of that industry. 

This lesson was learnt recently by Afters Ice Cream, which after launching a line of merchandise was reportedly sued by the high-fashion brand, Off-White. 

Afters Ice Cream advertised a number of different types of clothing that featured the phrase 'Off-Diet' and using images similar to very notable Off-White works. Off-White claims that the merchandise is 'confusingly similar' to Off-White's graphics and registered trademarks. It also stated that "retail fixtures, signage, [and] interior d├ęcor" is intended to "confuse consumers into believing that [its] products are Off-White products and/or that [it or its] business is affiliated with Off-White." 


While it is ironic that the Off-White, a company which has been at the other end of numerous copyright infringement claims, even to the extent of a case being called OffWhite Co v Off-White LLC, was so quick to launch their own proceeding, however, the law is pretty straightforward concerning unlicensed reproduction of copyrighted works. 

But it is not all doom and gloom, and there is hope for the plucky ice cream store yet as due to use of humour in the respective shirts, a reproduction of copyrighted works could be okay if it is for the purposes of parody or satire.  

This concept was demonstrated in a recent case in the Ninth Circuit, where the makers of a dog toy that resembled a bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey were found not to be infringing copyright as the dog toy was found to be humourous and expressive and not a sign of your dog falling off the wagon. 

As for the Off-White matter, we will have to wait and see if this matter progresses to court or if cooler heads prevail and the case is dropped. 


Popular posts from this blog

Green Eggs and Hamm

  Green Eggs and Hamm How a crotch shot of John Hamm and Dr Seuss have sparked the most intense debate on fair use dealing in copyright in the last ten years.  In 2013, John Hamm was in full swing, sipping cocktails and filming the wildly successful  Mad Men  however in years to come he may be remembered for something much more different. One uneventful day, John Hamm was photographed going commando and, thus changed how we see intellectual property rights on the internet forever.  Like all paparazzi photos, it was promptly uploaded to the internet and licenced for use. Unbeknownst to the photographer, the image was then used in an article by the Huffington Post, titled "25 Things You Wish You Hadn't Learned In 2013 And Must Forget In 2014." The writer of the piece turned the photo into a humourous GIF with the intention of mocking people who would want to see the picture and satirising the idea that it was news at all.  The photographer later registered the photo's

False Promises and Virtue Signalling - How to Get Away with Slacktivism in a Corporate World

False Promises and Virtue Signalling - How to Get Away with Slacktivism in a Corporate World  On the dark streets of Gotham one light shines through the darkness, one symbol for apathetic support of issues in search of personal gain, criminals cower… (well at least initially) at the sight of the 'Virtue Signal'. Virtue signalling has become an ever-increasing issue as we become more and more connected via online platforms. Because of this increased connection, there is a more significant amount of pressure on people to have something to say resulting in a churn of meaningless and self-serving support of issues which never amount to more than a Facebook post. This has been copied in the business world as well as companies realised quite quickly that there is a financial benefit to having your brand being associated with supporting an issue. Mind you, not actually doing something about the issue but merely being associated with doing something and there is a clearcut difference b