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Why Rihanna’s Savage X Has This Brand’s Knickers in a Bunch

Two digitally dominant lingerie labels are embroiled in a trademark battle highlighting the pitfalls of competing for eyeballs online.

AdoreMe Inc. has accused Savage X Fenty, under Lavender Lingerie LLC, of a litany of offenses, including infringing its federally registered and common law trademarks as well as unfair competition and “false designation of origin.”

The suit, filed Thursday in a California court, claims the Rihanna-fronted bra-and-panty brand uses “confusingly similar” language to its rival’s nomenclature and verbiage when advertising its wares on the web. Specifically, Adore Me’s suit states that Savage “prominently display[s]” the “Adore Us” mark in search engine results. “Contrary to what such advertising suggests,” it added, “Savage’s clothing products and retail services are not authorized by, sponsored by, or affiliated with Adore Me.”

Adore Me, which has previously landed in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission over deceptive membership pricing, trotted out its social media stats (3 million Facebook followers, 700,000 on Instagram) as evidence of its “strong” digital presence. The 10-year-old company also pointed to a pair of registered trademarks, Nos. 4,182,189 and 6,019,184, as proof of its rights to use the “Adore Me” phrase for women’s underwear, clothing and an array of related goods, including nipple covers, waist cinchers, diaper bags, mittens, footwear, key chains and Halloween costumes. Further, it added, Savage’s online antics deprive New York-based Adore Me of the “opportunity to sell its other goods to consumers who are tricked” into visiting the Southern California startup’s website instead.

Meanwhile, Savage, which has gained a foothold in fashion through its size-inclusive selection, unapologetic attitude and Amazon Prime Video-streamed spectacles, allegedly ignored Adore Me’s June 4 and June 8 cease-and-desist missives, though “infringing advertisements” that were removed around June 8 resurfaced last week and prompted the legal action, said the plaintiff, which is seeking monetary damages and a jury trial. (A Google search on Monday for “Adore Me” did not return any sponsored ad results for Savage.)

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Adore Me claims Savage's "deceptive" advertising practices infringe on its registered trademarks.
Adore Me claims Savage’s “deceptive” advertising practices infringe on its registered trademarks. AdoreMe Inc. court document

The case comes as fortunes could be shifting in the lingerie market. After years of struggling to find its footing and ceding mind and wallet share to direct-to-consumer startups like ThirdLove and Mindd, Victoria’s Secret is hoping a new strategy that abandons scantily clad supermodel Angels for actor Priyanka Chopras Jonas, soccer icon Megan Rapinoe, transgender model Valentina Sampaio and other notable activists will return the once-dominant empire to relevance with a new generation of consumers.

In fact, Heidi Zak applauded Victoria’s Secret’s “long overdue” pivot. “We are thrilled that Victoria’s Secret has finally taken their first step and critical journey towards empowering women,” the ThirdLove co-founding CEO said in a statement. The Bay Area company is part of a vanguard “creating a new definition of what it means to feel sexy,” she pointed out, in contrast to the fading “sex sells” norm that Victoria’s Secret helped establish.

“Being uncomfortable”—a shot at Victoria’s Secret’s “fantasy world” of wings, feathers and stilettos—“is unacceptable,” Zak said.