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New Balance to sue fashion mogul Karl Lagerfeld for intellectual property infringements

New Balance is having a fashion moment. Its classic 1970s trainers have been seen on the feet of just about everyone in New York, London and Paris. The brand has enjoyed a huge rise in popularity, going from somewhat nerdy to super cool.

It’s no surprise then that New Balance is more than a little annoyed at Karl Lagerfeld, the head of Paris fashion house Chanel. He has produced a remarkably similar shoe, complete with a ‘K’ logo in place of the iconic New Balance ‘N’.

TMZhas reported that the shoe company, based in Boston, USA, (but also with a factory in Cumbria) is suing the famous designer in order to protect its intellectual property rights.

A spokesperson for New Balance told the Telegraph that they believe “it is vital to actively and vigorously defend our brand.”

One giant brand against another

New Balance is a well-known trainer brand. Before being taken up by the fashionable crowd, its trainers were already popular with runners and other serious athletes.

The brand is concerned that the Lagerfeld version will confuse customers, despite the difference in price. New Balance 574 trainers retail at approximately £70, whereas Lagerfeld’s will set you back approximately £200.

Lagerfeld has recently taken to transforming everyday items into glamorous fashion must-haves. For his autumn/winter 2014 runway show, he created a supermarket full of Chanel brand goods.

How intellectual property law work in this case?

Intellectual property battles are not uncommon amongst famous brands, but does New Balance have a case against the fashion mogul?

Well, under UK intellectual property law, they may be able to claim trademark infringement.

A trademark is a logo or sound that makes a brand recognisable to a consumer. New Balance may be able to claim that Lagerfeld has copied their ‘N’ trademark, as the ‘K’ that appears on his version is remarkably similar in shape, size and style.

In addition, they may be able to claim a design right infringement. Design right protects the physical shape of an original design. The brand will have even more protection as they have registered the design of their retro trainer.

Even if New Balance does have an intellectual property infringement claim against Lagerfeld, many fashion commentators believe that the most likely outcome will be an out-of-court settlement between the two parties.

Some commentators say that the exposure can only give credibility to New Balance, but ardent fans of the brand say no such credibility was needed in the first place.

Is this a storm in a trainer? Or is New Balance right to try to defend their brand image?

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