Urban Outfitters Wins Latest Round in Navajo Nation Case
THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE - Urban Outfitters has been handed yet a partial victory in the latest round of the trademark case that the Navajo Nation filed against it four years ago. After dismissing the Navajo’s trademark dilution claims in May, New Mexico Federal Judge Bruce D. Black has denied the Navajo Nation's motion urging the court to dismiss Urban Outfitters' trademark fair use defense. The Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe in the U.S., filed suit against the Philadelphia-based hipster-friendly retailer in 2012, alleging that its use of the word "Navajo" on a number of products, including underwear and flasks, was a violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act and federal trademark statutes.
In response to the Navajo’s lawsuit, Urban Outfitters asserted a number of defenses – claims that, if proven, will serve to negate the defendant’s liability, even if it is proven that he committed the alleged illegal acts. One such affirmative defense: Fair use, a defense that holds – in part – that the use of another’s trademark is permissible to “describe the goods or services of such party, or their geographic origin … rather than to identify the user's goods, services or business.” This is called descriptive fair use, and it is one of the defenses that Urban Outfitters claimed in connection with its alleged trademark infringement.