Urban Outfitters has managed to severely annoy several groups in the past few years.
Indie designers have outed the retailer time and again for blatant design theft; GLBT and allies have taken issue with company founder Richard Hayne‘s support of anti-gay politics; and some Irish Americans, including New York Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley, are offended by certain items for “fueling stereotypes that many Irish Americans, as well as the people of Ireland, work so hard to dispel.”
Now the Navajo, the largest Native American tribe in the U.S., are suing the company for trademark infringement, claiming they illegally use the tribe’s name to market and sell over 20 items, including sweaters, feather earrings, and underpants.
According to Reuters, the tribe filed suit in New Mexico Tuesday.
The suit said the tribe had been known by the name “Navajo” since at least 1849, with a trademark lodged in 1943 for use in commerce. The tribe currently has 86 registered trademarks in use covering products including clothing, blankets, jewelry, foods and tools.
It said that since at least March 2009, Urban Outfitters has advertised, promoted and sold its goods under the “Navaho” and “Navajo” names on the Internet and in stores across the United States to compete directly with the Navajo Nation’s retail goods.
The retailer has sold over 20 products using the two names, which the suit noted are phonetically identical, to sell products that included the “Escote Navajo Wool Tote Bag” at $39 and the “Navajo Hipster Panty” line at $25 for a pack of five.
If the Navajo win this suit against Urban Outfitters, it could potentially be just the start for the tribe. Many designers, including but not limited to Gap, Lucky Brand and Steve Madden, have sold fashion items marketed with the word “Navajo” in recent years, though none rival Urban in both the quantity and quality of use (see: Navajo Hipster Panty).
Already, the attention Urban has garnered in the last year for offending the Navajo seems to have led to a sharp drop-off in the over saturated trend of walking around in ponchos and “Navajo” print bags.
Maybe those who are truly obsessed with wearing Navajo-inspired prints and jewelry will soon start to look to authentic Navajo retailers, of which there are many.