Thursday, February 11, 2016

What's in a plaid?

For nearly a century, Burberry has kept tabs on its trademarked plaid, the "Burberry check" pattern that most of us are familiar with. It may not be on our backs - it's not on mine, that's for sure - but it's in our psyches. But on the outside chance that it's not embedded in your brain, thar' she (the Burberry check pattern) blows:

Burberry's pretty expensive - I mean, The Queen sports it - and I don't think that most J.C. Penney's shoppers would be buying it. But, according to Burberry, the company has "suffered 'substantial and irreparable injury.'" at the hands of Penney's.
The British fashion house said Penney had been illegally selling "quileted jackets" with the pattern, as well as "scarf coats" in which scarves with the pattern were sold with matching coats. Burberry claimed that Penney kept selling the items in question for two months after learning of its objections. (Source: Fortune)
I guess they've taken it off their shelves, because this is what the Penney plaid looks like these days:

Close, but....You know the rest.

Burberry acknowledges that Penney's "infringing products are of inferior quality." Even so, "they appear superficially similar to genuine Burberry products."
[Burberry] then said Penney had intended to "deceive and mislead consumers into believing that defendants or their products are authorized, sponsored by or connected to Burberry."
If, in fact, Penney is found to have violated Burberry's trademark, they could be out millions. They'll have to sell a lot of "inferior quality" products to make up for that kind of outlay.

But if all that Burberry's got on Penney is something like the scarf coat shown above, I don't know. Here's the Burberry scarf coat, for compare and contrast.

Can you trademark the colors that go into a plaid? Anything with camel, white, and black - with or without red - is owned by Burberry? Do they have trademarks for a slew of plaids? What's pictured for Penney's - at least what I could find - doesn't really look like the real thing at all.

Then there's the overall look and feel. Let's face it. That wholesome Penney's model, in the jacket with the slightly clunky cut, is probably not wearing pricey pumps. Or toting that bag. Look, she doesn't even have the cool loop around thing going. She's just got hers plain old draped over her shoulders. (Does Burberry's own the right to the looped scarf look? If so, I'm in trouble.) But seriously, the only connection someone wearing that Penney's coat is making to Burberry's is in the realm of fantasy.

I ought to know.

I may not have the J.C. Penney wannabe, but I do have in my possession an L.L. Bean quilted jacket with a lining that's somewhere on the plaid continuum between Penney and Burberry. Here's my Burberry-lite lining:

Even if I roll up the cuffs to show off that ritzy-ritz lining, I'm pretty sure that no one's looking at the boxy cut of my LL Bean quilted jacket and thinking Burberry. Oh, sure, I might make pretend that I'm out deer stalking with Lilibet and Philip. Grouse hunting with Charles and Camilla. Chilling with Kate and the kids while we watch Wills and Harry play polo. (Move over, Pippa.) That someone might mistake me for a Sloane Ranger.

Should I turn myself in? Turn LL Bean in? Am I doing Burberry irreparable harm? Or just myself, by trying to pass myself off as someone who rides to the hounds?

And what should I be doing about the pink plaid cotton scarf I got for $5 at a sidewalk sale on Charles Street. Now that's a Burberry knock-off, if ever.

But what's in a plaid?

We may be finding out soon enough...

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