Shein is back in the legal hot seat.
Stussy, the ’80s-era surf, skate and hip-hop label, sued the Chinese fast-fashion phenom over a series of products bearing trademarked logos and the brand’s name.
The Laguna Beach, Calif.-based brand alleges that Shein made “false or misleading descriptions and representations” through products on its site, using Stussy’s signature graffiti-style marking to entice and confuse shoppers, according to documents filed Thursday in a California federal court. Stussy is the trademark owner of the logo, along with its name (in all styles of script), and reserves sole rights to use these markings in the production of clothing anywhere in the world. Stussy’s complaint further alleges trademark infringement and counterfeiting, infringement of California and common law trademarks and trade name rights, injury to business reputation and dilution, unfair competition and unfair practices.
In the lawsuit, Stussy wrote that Shein’s use of “copies and close reproductions” of its marks and logos have caused, or could cause, “irreparable damage or injury” to both the company and its consumers. Shein shoppers are likely to mistake products sold on the site, like sweatshirts and jerseys, for genuine Stussy goods—though they’re being sold at a fraction of the brand’s usual prices. The suit also alleged that the products suggest a false affiliation or collaborative relationship between the two companies.
A search of Shein’s e-commerce site revealed that one of the offending garments—a jersey bearing lettering that read STUSSY,” has been removed from the site. The piece also bore the number 8 on its back side—an apparent nod to the iconic 8 ball motif that appears across much of Stussy’s apparel. “Stussy 8” is among the brand’s registered word marks. Shein continues to market a white, basic crewneck sweatshirt bearing a black graffiti marking reminiscent of Stussy’s most recognizable logo. The product, on sale for $7 on Shein’s U.S. site, is sold out in all sizes.
Surfboard maker Shawn Stussy launched the brand in 1980 and amassed a following that leapt from the surfing community into skate culture and even got the label name-dropped in rapper Lil Yachty’s 2020 song “In My Stussy’s.” Like many labels that emerged in the same time frame, Stussy seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance, recently opening its first store in Paris and collaborating with the City of Lights’ deep-pocketed Neymar-fronted football team, Paris Saint-Germain.
Stussy said its exclusivity and tight distribution through specialty retailers and DTC contribute to the value of its trademarks. It also claimed Shein is attempting to capitalize on “unmet demand” for products with Stussy’s unique look and feel by diverting shoppers to its own website.
Stussy asked the court to enjoin Shein from using the infringing marks or “any word, term, name, symbol, device or combination thereof that causes or is likely to cause confusion” with the Stussy brand. It asked that the case be tried by a jury, with the aim of recovering lost profits in an amount to be determined at trial, as well as attorney fees. Neither Stussy nor Shein responded to a request for comment.
Stussy is just the latest brand to take legal action against Shein‘s copycatting. Dr. Martens owner AirWair International sued the etailer’s parent company, ZoeTop Business Co. Ltd., in late 2020 over the marketing and distribution of 26 shoe and boot styles that it said were “direct and obvious copies” of its best-selling silhouettes. In October 2021, following attempts to mediate the disagreement, ZoeTop responded with an attempt to invalidate AirWair’s claims, calling its “purported trademarks and/or trade dress,” which included features like welt stitching, cleats, single or multi-toned soles, “generic.” Ralph Lauren also took aim at Shein for the use of an image reminiscent of its widely recognized polo player logo last year, and sought injunctive relief as well as damages.