Not for the first time, New York based company Steve Madden Inc has found itself on the wrong side of a lawsuit over handbags it allegedly copied. In a complaint filed in the New York federal court on Tuesday, Stella McCartney accuses Steve Madden’s Btotally tote bag of being a “nearly-identical” knockoff of the company’s own Falabella bag. The lawsuits claims that the Btottally directly copies “every key element,” including the continuous chain attached to the sides of the bag that. As you can see from the below, it’s difficult to tell them apart! (Top – Steve Madden, Bottom – Stella McCartney.)
While regular readers will know that the US does not have design protection like we do in the UK, the Falabella is protected by what is called trade dress – a section of law similar to trademarks, which allows a design to be protected as long as that design serves to indicate the source of the product in question.
Steve Madden was sued last year in a similar lawsuit filed by Balenciaga, the luxury French fashion label. Balenciaga claimed that Steve Madden was producing and selling a copycat version of its famous motorcycle handbag. Balenciaga stated that Steve Madden’s product is a “studied copy” of the motorcycle bag, featuring identical or nearly identical shapes and design elements but sold at a much lower price point.
Both Stella McCartney and Balenciaga are part of the Paris based Kering Group. More to come on this one!