brands under fire

Urban Outfitters Offends Irish, Navajo Nation

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 2, 2012 10:01 AM

As a fast-fashion retailer that relies on highly visual looks to hook fickle youths, Urban Outfitters seems to step on a lot of toes as it rolls out new items at a rapid clip. Having already offended the Irish with its "Irish yoga" trucker hat and St. Patrick's Day t-shirts, the retailer is proving to be an equal opportunity offender.

Now you can add the Navajo Nation to the list of aggrieved parties finding UO's designs to be culturally insensitive.

The Philadelphia-based retailer has shown an affinity for the Navajo in recent years, identifying a number of its products as being Navajo or Navaho. And that has irked the actual Navajo that they are taking Urban Outfitters to court.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the two sides have been tangling for a few years and the Navajo Nation gained an out-of-court victory when Urban Outfitters agreed to “remove the word 'Navajo' from its product names on its website and replaced 'Navajo' with the term 'Printed.” But the lawsuit contends that the retailer “continued to use the disputed names and marks on goods sold in its stores” and also used the word 'Navajo' on its receipts.

So the Navajo have filed a suit that claims that the company committed trademark infringement. The suit was brought in New Mexico, which shares the 27,000 square miles of land that belong to the tribe with Arizona and Utah.

The suit has it that the retailer started using the Navajo and Navaho names “in its product line or in connection with the sale of its merchandise as early as March 16, 2009,” the Inquirer reports. “The company applied those names to clothing, jewelry, shoes, handbags, caps, gloves, undergarments, and scarves.”

The suit also notes that Urban Outfitters was using "designs and marks that ‘evoke the Navajo Indian Tribe's tribal patterns, including geometric prints and designs fashioned to mimic and resemble Navajo Indian and Tribal patterns, prints, and designs," the paper notes.

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