Victoria's Secret Loses Big Trademark Case to Thomas Pink

Posted on August 10, 2014

Victoria's Secret just lost a big trademark case in London. The American lingerie company, which is owned by L Brands, has a line of underwear and t-shirts marketed to college girls called Pink. After Victoria's Secret opened a store in London and began advertising the brand, it got slapped with a trademark infringement lawsuit by Thomas Pink, the heritage and bespoke menswear company.

The High Court ruled in favor of Thomas Pink. According to The Guardian, Judge Colin Birss ruled the similarities in the two names could confuse consumers. He wrote that European shoppers could associate the upscale Thomas Pink clothier (which is owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy) with the mass market appeal women's underwear and t-shirts of Victoria's Secret, which would damage the reputation of Thomas Pink. In other words, Thomas Pink makes $350 shirts that are flawlessly tailored and are worn by titans of industry and Victoria's Secret Pink makes brightly colored thongs and underwear with slogans across the rear and it's not helping Thomas Pink to be associated with such a brand.

Judge Birss continued to explain saying, "Consumers are likely to enter one of the claimant's shops looking for lingerie and be surprised and disappointed when they find they have made a mistake." He also noted that the Thomas Pink logo has "acquired distinctiveness" with consumers, having been in use since 1984. Judge Birss likes to cut to the chase in these cases. He ruled for Samsung when it was sued for trademark infringement by Apple. In that case Birss ruled that the Samsung Galaxy did not infringe on the Apple iPad because the two would never be confused because the Samsung product wasn't as "cool" as Apple's. The Samsung execs must have felt elated, yet depressed after that ruling came out.

It should also be noted that Thomas Pink makes men's underwear. In fact these bright pink David Jersey Boxers boxers are sold on its website for $50 (they also come in other colors). The Pink logo is quite clear on the waistband. Thomas Pink also makes women's clothes and it's not a stretch to guess that it might add women's underwear to its line up in the near future. Victoria's Secret is going to appeal the case, although this time it's on the infringing side of the case. In the U.S. the company has a history of aggressively going after companies that it believes infringe its trademarks. British analysts think Victoria's Secret is going to have to eventually drop the name in Europe. The ruling is not effective in the U.S. where Victoria's Secret sells quite a bit of Pink merchandise.

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