This week, international store Victoria’s Secret lost out against the premium shirtmaker Thomas Pink in court. The store will likely be banned from using their Pink trademark in Europe as a result of the successful lawsuit.
Thomas Pink, a London-based brand, argued in their lawsuit that Victoria’s Secret Pink stores, which opened in the UK in 2012, came too close to the Thomas Pink trademarks and brands, effectively resulting in trademark infringement. The judge, Colin Birss, has agreed, saying that there isn’t enough differentiation between the two. “Consumers are likely to enter one of the claimant’s shops looking for lingerie and be surprised and disappointed when they find they have made a mistake,” said Birss in his ruling.
Thomas Pink indicated that many consumers had already been confused, and had tried to return Victoria’s Secret lingerie to its own stores.
The ruling will have no effect in the U.S., but it could stifle European growth for the company, especially considering that Pink has been one of VS’s most popular sub-brands since first launching in 2004. Pink, which features sleepwear and loungewear as well as more traditional undergarments, helped bring a younger set of consumers to the brand at a time when their demographic was starting to get much older.
Although Victoria’s Secret has not indicated just how important Pink is to their brand, their quarterly filings have indicated that Pink has been important for keeping the store’s bottom line in the black. While Victoria’s Secret has over 1,000 stores in the U.S., there are only seven so far in the U.K., meaning that there is likely still substantial room for brand growth throughout Europe.
“This is why it’s so important to register your trademark and manage your brand rights,” says Andreas Huttenrauch, Chief Digital Strategist at Globi Web Solutions. “It’s also important to have a good future vision of where you’ll be expanding your market too, and doing your homework before expanding. VS could have saved a lot of money by checking on existing trademarks in the UK before expanding their Pink stores there. Then again, even bad publicity is marketing.”
Industry insiders weren’t sure which way the lawsuit would land, especially considering that Thomas Pink had only trademarked their logo, and not the word “pink” itself. However, Birss said that the brandname itself has “acquired distinctiveness” that distanced it from Victoria’s Secret’s “mass-market appeal.”
“We are delighted with the outcome of this case, and will continue to protect the considerable investment that has been made into building Thomas Pink into a leading luxury clothing brand,” said Thomas Pink’s CEO, Jonathan Heilbron, in a released statement about the case.