Cotton On is facing litigation in the Federal Court of Australia from a sole trader in the United States who claims that the 1,400 store clothing chain copied her trade mark-protected brand, ‘LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET.’

New York designer Elektra Prinz Gorski filed an application with the Federal Court of Australia in April this year for loss and damage, claiming that Cotton On knew or ought to have known that Cotton On’s t-shirt products bearing the phrase ‘LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET’ infringed Ms Gorski’s trade mark and copyright.

Gorski’s ‘LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET’ brand is a registered trade mark in Australia, which is searchable from the public IP Australia database. Cotton On denies replicating Gorski’s work and asserts it is merely an amusing pun. Yet Gorksi claims that a senior designer of Cotton On ‘repinned’ Gorski’s work and slogan on Pinterest prior to the alleged infringing t-shirts being manufactured and produced by Cotton On.

Cotton On has stated it intends to vigorously defend the proceedings despite Gorski owning a registered trade mark.

The circumstances demonstrate the difficulty small fashion labels, designers and sole traders face in protecting their intellectual property in a social media market. Having a registered trade mark and filing early will place fashion labels in the best possible position to enforce their brand. When creating and designing new labels, designers should also arrange for IP checks to be undertaken with the view to not stepping on third party registered rights.