Overview: Tangle, INC brought a copyright and trade dress action against fashion chain Aritzia in Southern California, alleging that sculptures used in window displays and marketing campaigns copy artist Richard Zawitz Tangle, INC, sculpture designs.
What’s the Tangle?
Aritzia is a Vancouver-headquartered fashion brand touted as “everyday luxury” that is becoming one of the most popular brands in the US in the millennial and Gen-Z markets. Artist Richard Zawitz, founder of Tangle, Inc., holds copyright registrations for his sculptures dating back to 1981. These sculptures have a distinct color and look, and toys based on the sculptures are sold in a number of variations and sizes. An Aritzia marketing campaign in 2023 featured a pink chrome sculptural design with 18 interlocking curved pieces similar to Tangle’s toys, displaying the sculptures in retail locations and across social media accounts.
Trade Dress Untangled
Tangle filed its first complaint for trade dress and copyright infringement in April of 2023, arguing that Aritzia infringed the “core expression” of seven of Tangle works. Trade dress is the overall look and feel of the product. Tangle argued that its trade dress was “the Tangle design and distinctive pink-chrome color, alone or in combination with the sculptural features,” but the court found this definition insufficient. Tangle has appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Courts often rely on consumer surveys in matters relating to trade dress or trademark litigation. When properly designed, surveys can measure consumer recognition of trade dress, providing evidence for or against allegations of infringement. Only time will tell whether the TANGLE team pursues an amended complaint with survey evidence.
MMR Strategy Group conducts and designs surveys that measure trade dress and related claims. Contact us to learn more.