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Fleece Face-off: Patagonia Takes Gap to Court in Copycat Case

In the fall of 2017, New York’s Modern Museum of Art featured an exhibit titled ‘Is Fashion Modern?’ 

Included among the works was Patagonia’s 1989 Snap-T design pullover fleece, which was captioned: “the distinctive patch pocket associated with today’s fleece outerwear was originally a work-around.” 

Now, Patagonia says, Gap, a retailer longing to regain its mid-80s and ’90s halcyon heyday, is stealing that very design and is taking the former Yeezy collaborator to court. 

Gap is selling copies of this design using a highly similar rectangular logo, all designed to make it appear as though Patagonia is the source of Gap’s products or has collaborated with Gap or authorized use of its trademark and trade dress,” the 19-page complaint filed in a California district says.  

At left, Patagonia Snap-T with P-6 design on its fleece pullover next to the Gap fleece at right. COURT DOCUMENTS

Patagonia accuses Gap of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution of a famous mark, each charge under state and federal law. 

The B Corp is seeking revenues generated from the allegedly infringing products, a cease-and-desist order prohibiting any more production of said products in question, and recompense of legal fees. 

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“Without injunctive relief, Patagonia has no means by which to control the continuing injury to their reputation and goodwill or that of its Patagonia trademarks,” Patagonia attorneys argue in court documents. “Patagonia has been and will continue to be irreparably harmed. No amount of money damages can adequately compensate Patagonia if it loses the ability to control its marks.” 

In court documents, Patagonia attorneys display images of the Snap-T shirt through the years, culminating in Gap’s 2022 fleece pullover, which bears a striking resemblance to generations of Patagonia products, particularly the slightly tilted pocket with snap and ‘P-6’ label on the top and to the left of the pocket, all of which Patagonia attorneys call “iconic.”

Perhaps purposely contrasting the rave reviews its Snap-T has received through the years, Patagonia points to a single 1-star customer review allegedly on Gap’s shopping site titled ‘Obvious Pata*gonia ripoff’, which reads, “I had to zoom in just to ensure the logo was Gap. This is wild, why are you copying other brands, you have your own lane.” 

Last month, Patagonia sued Walmart, the nation’s biggest retailer, for infringing on the design of a colorful trout on T-shirts.

Earlier this month, Gap, trying to lighten its operational structure, sold $40 million of its Chinese business interests to Chinese e-commerce giant Baozun, Inc., and in September made headlines stateside after the hip-hop artist formerly known as Kanye West abruptly terminated his contract with the denim giant, saying the company failed to live up to its promises in their partnership, similar to the presidential hopeful‘s accusations against one-time partner Adidas.

Gap did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit