On February 9, 2016, the London-based British luxury apparel brand, Burberry, filed a lawsuit against J.C. Penney Corp. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleged that J.C. Penney infringed upon Burberry’s trademark of its signature “Burberry check” pattern. The complaint also contained allegations of federal counterfeiting, and multiple other state law and common law claims.

Burberry has used its signature check design since the 1920s, and has aggressively sought to protect it, regularly and vigilantly pursuing actions against counterfeiters, and sometimes pursuing criminal sanctions. In fact, this is not the first time Burberry has gone after a large retailer. In 2010, Burberry filed suit against TJ Maxx and Marshalls, and has pursued similar suits against retailers in other countries as well.

In the present suit, Burberry alleged that J.C. Penney is selling a “scarf coat” that has the signature check pattern on the outside, as well as another coat that has the pattern on the interior lining. Both items were supplied to J.C. Penney by The Levy Group Inc., an apparel manufacturer, that is also named as defendant in the suit. Burberry claimed that J.C. Penney was notified that they were infringing on Burberry’s trademark, yet did nothing for two months. A spokesperson for Burberry was quoted as saying, “Even though defendants’ infringing products are of inferior quality, they appear superficially similar to genuine Burberry products . . . Defendants’ actions are intended to deceive and mislead consumers into believing that defendants’ or their products are authorized, sponsored by or connected to Burberry.” Burberry claimed that such an assumption on behalf of consumers would cause irreparable harm to the brand, which “has attained one of the highest levels of recognition among luxury brands.”

Burberry is seeking to prevent further infringements, as well as either treble damages, disgorgement of profits, or up to $2 million for each infringement.

Nicole Kalkines

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