Fashion line used Bullitt star’s name to hawk iconic cardigan

Totes Retro

Remember the Steve McQueen estate’s legal dust-up with Ferrari back in July? In that case, Chadwick McQueen, administrator of the estate and the actor’s son, went after the luxury automaker for capitalizing on his father’s persona as a skilled, risk-taking driver. According to McQueen the younger, Ferrari released a “special edition” car called “The McQueen” and used an image of his father and ad copy specifically tying the car to McQueen the elder’s own classic Ferrari model.

The estate accused the manufacturer of trademark infringement, false endorsement and unfair competition, but the suit evaporated in December, with both parties going their separate ways. (It’s unclear whether a settlement is in the offing.)

Oddly Specific, But Okay …

Well, this April, the McQueen estate took a swing at another luxury brand: The estate sued Tom Ford, the tony clothing and eyewear line that’s graced the frames of celebrities, musicians and other tastemakers since 2006 (Justin Timberlake even gave the line a shout out in his hit “Suit & Tie.” That’s marketing.)

According to Chadwick McQueen, Tom Ford tried to capitalize on his father’s status as a fashion icon by producing a series of “wool cardigan sweaters with shawl collars” – a style of knitwear that McQueen père redeemed from its staid-dad ’50s roots by sporting it in hit movies. This fashion, the complaint notes, won McQueen the title of “the lord of manly knitwear,” a title we didn’t know was up for grabs, but hey – congrats.

The Takeaway

The problem, McQueen fils maintains, is that Tom Ford, along with its retailers – Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman – used the McQueen name to market the sweaters without the estate’s permission and then allegedly refused to remove the name from the line when confronted by the estate. Similarly, the estate asserts that the “[d]efendants also used the Steve McQueen Intellectual Property to promote the [sweaters] through word-of-mouth promotions, communications with retailers, industry insiders, and members of the public.”

The suit, filed in California Superior Court, L.A. County, charged the defendants with false endorsement and designation of origin, violation of the actor’s rights of publicity under California state law, unfair competition, and trademark infringement. In addition to the defendants’ discontinued use of the McQueen name, the plaintiffs seek at least $1 million in compensatory damages, statutory damages of $2 million per registered trademark and $750 for each violation of California law.

Oh – we thought we’d mention that one of the sweaters goes for $2,390. It’s enough to make you want to file your own suit.