Trademark Wars: Urban Outfitters Takes First-Round Win Over Navajo Nation

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Urban Outfitters Navajo

Navajo Nation, America’s largest tribe of Native Americans, has taken a few hits along the way. Now another loss has come at the hands of Urban Outfitters. The pair have been squaring off in a trademark battle for four years.

The retailer “released a line of clothing and accessories, most notably women’s underwear, with traditional Native American prints and had advertised them as a ‘Navajo’ line,” Techdirt report. Navajo Nation sued and, now, has lost on the first two counts.

The court has given partial summary judgment in favor of Urban Outfitters “on the claims of blurring and tarnishment by use of the trademark, stating that the term ‘Navajo’ is not famous by the dilution standards.” It has dismissed those two counts, the AP reports, as the judge does not see “Navajo” to be famous enough to be a household name.

Urban Outfitters Navajo

In other words, if consumers don’t actually attach the word “Navajo” to the Navajo Nation or its members, Navajo Nation and its members can’t be diluted or hurt in any way by the word being used by Urban Outfitters.

Navajo Nation has it that UO has sold more than $500 million of Navajo-branded products though none are easily found on the company’s site at this point. One particularly offensive piece of Navajo-branded gear UO once sold, reports TheFrisky.com, was “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask,” which seems to immediately call to mind the stereotypes of Native Americans and alcoholism. There are still six counts pending in the case so it remains to be seen what happens next.

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UO has had other bits of questionable fashion choices in the past, such as vintage-style Kent State sweatshirt that looked like it was splattered with blood, a reference to the time the National Guard shot and killed four students during an antiwar protest. There was also a print similar to the uniforms gay prisoners were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps as well as a line of novelty St. Patrick’s Day clothing that offended Irish-Americans, and so forth.

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