NBA-Coogi Spat May Give Sweater Pattern Coke Bottle Protection


Susan Scafidi was quoted in a Bloomberg Law article about the copyright infringement case between the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and Coogi.

In the 12 years since the rapper known as Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls was murdered, fans and entertainers from Drake to Lamar Odom have sported the multicolored Coogi sweaters he wore and rapped about.

The NBA’s Brooklyn Nets pays homage with its ‘Brooklyn Camo,’ a Biggie-inspired pattern on team garb and jerseys—a move that has landed the team in litigation.

In taking on the NBA, Nike Inc. and others, Coogi is making a case beyond copyright infringement. It’s claiming its designs are so identified with B.I.G. and celebrity culture that they deserve a broad legal protection for product appearance and packaging that’s typically reserved for things like Coca-Cola bottles and McDonald’s uniforms.

“Coogi claims a signature in threads. And that’s what’s unusual about this case. Because they’ve developed a portfolio of patterns that are different but similar to one another enough in the consumer mind to create an emanation of identity,” said Susan Scafidi, founder and academic director of Fordham University School of Law’s Fashion Law institute in New York.

If the court rules that Coogi’s whole catalog deserves trade dress protection, it “could make certain manufacturers within the fashion industry a little more cautious about some of their fabrics for fear of liability,” Scafidi said.

A win for Coogi also could cause fashion companies to produce more monochrome or solid patterns, while high-volume brands like H&M and Zara “might be a little less likely to create Coogi lookalikes knowing that Coogi is out there paying attention,” Scafidi said.

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