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Francesca’s Tween Brand Faces Legal Challenge Weeks After Launch

Chicago-based tween retailer Frankie’s On the Park is suing Francesca’s for launching what it claims is a brand “virtually identical in sound, look and appearance” to its own.

Teased last year, Franki by Francesca’s debuted as a youth-centered collection in February. The line spun off into a separate brand with its own popup shops last month. According to its lawsuit, Frankie’s On the Park learned of Francesca’s launch plans Nov. 5 and contacted the women’s value chain Nov. 9 to object to the use of “Franki” as “a standalone competitive retail, ecommerce and social media brand.”

Unable to resolve the matter “amicably,” it filed a complaint against Francesca’s alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices on Nov. 19. A federal judge rejected Frankie’s On the Park’s motion for a temporary restraining order Nov. 23.

In its lawsuit, Frankie’s On the Park claimed that the launch of Franki by Francesca’s “threatens irreparable and substantial harm” through forward and/or reverse confusion. As Francesca’s sells inexpensive clothing and is the larger operation—Frankie’s On the Park said its net sales have exceeded $12 million since its inception more than 13 years ago—this confusion would be likely to harm its reputation, it argued.

Frankie's On the Park's lawsuit also argued that the similarities in how the two brands style their names will also cause confusion
Frankie’s On the Park’s lawsuit also argued that the similarities between Franki by Francesca’s logo and its own will cause confusion. Frankie's On the Park

Though Frankie’s On the Park trademarked its full name more than a decade ago, it holds no formal claim to the “Frankie’s” name alone. Its lawsuit, however, claims it consistently used the nickname in connection with its operations “from the outset.” Given its use of “Frankie’s” and other such formatives—”Frankie’s Girls,” “Frankie’s Fashionistas,” “Frankie’s Squads”—the brand argued that it developed “substantial” common law trademark rights to the “Frankie’s” mark.

Francesca’s originally filed to trademark “Franki by Francesca’s” in October last year. Though the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the mark for opposition in April, it has not yet formally registered it.

The lawsuit arrived just under a year after Francesca’s filed for bankruptcy. The retailer emerged from Chapter 11 less than two months later under new ownership. Though TerraMar Capital LLC—one of the two investment firms behind the affiliate that bought Francesca’s—committed to operating just 275 Francesca’s boutiques, the new owners appeared to have held onto significantly more locations than that, with the company website claiming a footprint of more than 450 stores.