long arm of the law
Posted by Barry Silverstein on September 10, 2010 11:45 AM
Russell Simmons, who pioneered hip hop with the formation of the record label Def Jam and clothing brands American Classics, Argyleculture, and Phat Farm, has filed suit against The Millwork Trading Co. LTD (Li & Fung, USA), a division of a Hong Kong apparel-sourcing firm.
Simmons claims that Li & Fung USA first approached him about licensing the American Classics brand in 2007, which he describes above as a mass-market brand inspired by Walmart.
Proceeding on good faith, Simmons says he told the company that "Simmons Design Group's main focus was Argyleculture, and that the two brands needed to work synergistically and belonged together." Li & Fung's brand interests, however, apparently favored class over mass.
Simmons says Li & Fung USA "expressed a false enthusiasm for my flagship brand (Argyleculture) in order to induce me into licensing them my mass-market brand (American Classics)."
The suit goes on to say that Li & Fung USA "never intended to perform its contractual obligations under both Argyleculture and American Classics trademarks" and that the company failed to "use its best efforts" to manufacture, sell and promote licensed products in the United States. Simmons claims Li & Fung USA "willfully and repeatedly put the integrity of my brands at risk."
Simmons seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $55 million for the failed clothing deal. It's the first time in his thirty years of business that he has brought suit to protect his brands.
Forbes magazine recently named Russell Simmons one of "Hollywood's most influential celebrities," while USA Today called Simmons one of the "Top 25 most influential people of the past 25 years."
Just goes to show you what happens when you cross a powerful celebrity — or display false enthusiasm.