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Patagonia Alleges Fishy Business Over Trademarked Trout

Patagonia is taking Walmart to court over the design of one of its shirts. The outdoor retailer, never shy about publicly protecting its trademarked logo, has sued the retail giant and one of its apparel suppliers for claims including trademark infringement, copyright infringement and unfair competition.

Patagonia’s complaint filed in a California district court names both Walmart and New York-based lifestyle apparel brand Robin Ruth USA as defendants. Robin Ruth has produced and sold apparel bearing what Patagonia calls “nearly identical” copies of its P-6 Trout logo and artwork, replacing the “Patagonia” trademark with the word “Montana.” Walmart has purchased and resold those copycat products in several retail stores, Yvon Chouinard’s B Corp points out.

The company’s “P-6” logo has previously been the subject of various lawsuits, most recently with licensed apparel wholesaler Mad Engine Global and Linda Finegold, an online retailer selling often-profane apparel and accessories that sometimes riff on other popular brands.

Patagonia’s complaint describes the P-6 logo as a multi-colored label inspired by a silhouette of the jagged peaks of Mt. Fitz Roy, a range straddling the Argentina-Chile border. The logo has been around since at least 1973. One of the Worn Wear operator’s logos, which Robin Ruth allegedly copied, includes the same pattern inside the white outline of a trout.

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A comparison shot of the Patagonia P-6 Trout logo (left) and the "Montana" shirt produced by Robin Ruth and sold at Walmart (right).
A comparison shot of the Patagonia P-6 Trout logo (left) and the “Montana” shirt produced by Robin Ruth and sold at Walmart (right). Courtesy of Patagonia

In the lawsuit, the Ventura, Calif. company called the P-6 logo and the Patagonia brand in general as “among the most identifiable brands in the world.”

Walmart responded by stating its appreciation for IP.

“We respect the intellectual property rights of others and expect our suppliers to do the same,” a Walmart spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “We will review the complaint and respond in court as appropriate once we are served.”

Patagonia and Robin Ruth USA did not return Sourcing Journal’s requests for comment.

The Infinna user argues that the infringing mark and products “inevitably will imply to consumers that Patagonia has endorsed or authorized these products” when it has not. The complaint alleges that the defendants’ willful conduct has caused, or is likely to cause, dilution of Patagonia’s “famous and distinctive” marks.

“Patagonia is informed and believes that defendants have marketed and sold substantial quantities of products bearing the infringing designs, and have profited and continue to profit from such sales,” the complaint said. “Defendants’ actions have caused and will cause Patagonia irreparable harm for which money damages and other remedies are inadequate.”

The outdoor company filed seven claims in the complaint, with the first four being federal and the latter three exclusive to California law. On a federal level, Patagonia alleged trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution of a famous mark and copyright infringement. It also accused Walmart and Robin Ruth of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution under California state laws.

It asked the court to order Walmart and Robin Ruth to stop manufacturing, producing, importing, sourcing and selling any more goods or services that display any words or symbols that resemble the Patagonia trademark.

The circularity champion also requested that the defendants hand over any remaining infringing inventory to Patagonia’s counsel, and seeks to bar them from applying to register “any trademark which is likely to be confused with or that dilutes the distinctive quality of Patagonia’s trademarks.” The company also says it is entitled to monetary damages.

Since 2021, Walmart has had trademark troubles with various footwear brands, with Crocs, Yeezy and Vans all suing the retail giant for selling knockoffs of their signature shoes.

In April, Vans won a preliminary injunction preventing Walmart from selling more than 20 knockoff versions of its Old Skool and SK8-Hi shoe designs. A California federal court granted its motion, ordering Walmart to refrain from making, marketing, and selling footwear that bears Vans’ trademarks, for the duration of the case. The case remains ongoing.

Yeezy and Crocs settled their lawsuits in June and September, respectively.

Patagonia’s trademark claims arise under the Trademark Act of 1946, also known as the Lanham Act, as amended by the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006. The company’s copyright infringement claims arise from the defendants’ alleged infringement of Patagonia’s rights under the United States Copyright Act.

The California court encouraged the parties to settle via alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to reduce the time and money needed to resolve the case. ADR options include mediation, arbitration and neutral evaluation. Unless exempted by the trial judge, parties in all civil cases must participate in an ADR process before trial.