The small luxury handbag brand Tribe of Two is suing Italian fashion house Tod’s over a logo it alleges is “confusingly similar” to its own.
The infringement complaint, filed in a New York federal court April 19, centers around a double-T design trademarked by Tribe of Two in 2013. The logo consists of two interlocking T’s, the first right side up and the second upside down, that together resemble a Roman numeral “II.” Tod’s debuted a similar logo in September 2015 at a Milan fashion show and began selling Double-T items—including handbags—the following year.
According to Tribe of Two, its sales tripled from 2013 to 2014 and from 2014 to 2015. It increased its marketing efforts the next year, landing product placements on the TV shows “Scandal” and “Animal Kingdom.” Sales declined, however, in 2016 and 2017—after Tod’s introduced its Double-T products, the complaint notes.
“Tribe of Two has not regained momentum since,” the brand wrote in its complaint. “During this time, Tribe of Two received criticism that its logo looked like that of Tod’s. On several occasions, Ms. Schad was asked if she had copied Tod’s and was denied sales because of the similarity of the mark to Tod’s.”
Tribe of Two’s lawsuit asks for relief on two counts: federal trademark infringement and federal unfair competition. It alleges the Double-T design used by Tod’s causes “confusion, deception and mistake
among consumers.” The brand’s actions, it adds, “demonstrate an intentional, willful and malicious intent to trade on the goodwill associated with Tribe of Two’s Double-T Mark, to Tribe of Two’s great and irreparable harm.”
The complaint aims to enjoin Tod’s from further use of the Double-T design and seeks all profits derived from the sale or distribution of the logo. It asks that damages be trebled in light of what it calls the brand’s “knowing and intentional use” of the “confusingly similar imitation” of its own design.
According to the complaint, former model and Tribe of Two designer Brenda Schad created the brand’s double-T logo in 2012, the year of the label’s founding. Tribe of Two filed its first double-T trademark application in May 2012. The protected design—the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) registered the trademark in July 2013—depicts the interlocked T’s below the words “Tribe of Two.” The trademark covers purses and wallets. The company filed another application in January 2019. This one depicted its double-T design alone and covered handbags, shoulder bags, tote bags, satchels, purses, clutches and wallets. The USPTO registered the mark in December 2019.
Tod’s filed a series of trademark applications related to its double-T design in November 2015. Several of these were published for opposition in 2018. Tribe of Two has opposed these applications. On April 19, the same day it filed its civil action, Tribe of Two asked the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to suspend the proceedings pending the results of its lawsuit.
A February filing lays out Tod’s likely defense against Tribe of Two’s lawsuit, namely that it had used a variation of the double-T mark as early as 2008. The design featured two interlocking Ts—the first upright and the second upside down. The old logo, however, featured curved lines and the word “Tod’s” written in the top section of the first T. Tod’s categorized these differences as “minor stylistic variations” and said the new and old logos are “legally equivalent.” Tribe of Two’s new civil complaint does not mention this earlier variation of Tod’s double-T design.
Though Tribe of Two makes no explicit allegations, its lawsuit suggests a connection between an email it sent to the fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni and Tod’s adoption of its current double-T logo. In July 2015, it claims, it emailed Ferragni asking her to promote its Tribe of Two handbags, but never heard back. Two months later, Tod’s debuted its new double-T design in Milan. In 2017, Tod’s collaborated with Ferragni for a #ChiaralovesTod’s collection featuring the Tod’s double-T. She was later promoted to Tod’s board of directors.