International IP: Victoria’s Secret Loses “Pink” Trademark Case in UK

Trademark InfringementA judge in the United Kingdom ruled that Victoria’s Secret’s “Pink” brand infringed the trademark rights of Thomas Pink Ltd.

Thomas Pink, a subsidiary of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has been selling high-end clothing under the “Pink” brand since 1984.

Victoria’s Secret has been using the “Pink” brand since 2004 for a line of casual loungewear and lingerie aimed at 18 to 25-year-olds.

In the US, Victoria’s Secret operates stand-alone Pink stores (as depicted above).  In the UK, the Pink section is a shop-in-shop within the Victoria’s Secret boutiques.

Victoria’s Secret opened its first retail outlets in the UK in 2012.  Thomas Pink sued the lingerie company for trademark infringement in 2013.

Victoria’s Secret claimed that the suit came as a surprise, and that the two companies had last corresponded about the “Pink” name in 2005, when it launched its line of “Pink” undies.

Judge Colin Birss said that the use of the “Pink” name by Victoria’s Secret would cause “detriment to the repute” of Thomas Pink.

Thomas Pink contended that several customers had tried to return Victoria’s Secret merchandise to Thomas Pink stores. Other customers had asked to buy lingerie from Thomas Pink establishments, and were surprised to learn that the shirt maker did not stock it.

Thomas Pink said that Victoria’s Secret’s sexy image would damage its own reputation for quality and tradition.

The judge agreed, saying:

The defendant’s overall business is a legitimate one.  Nevertheless, it is one which had been associated with some controversy, no doubt because ‘sexy’ sells. Examples were in the evidence of goods which had to be withdrawn by the defendant after complaints.

As the attorneys for Thomas Pink noted, it is “black letter law that trademark rights are inherently territorial and geographically limited.”

Thus, even the strongest American brands cannot count on protection in foreign markets, if similar marks are already in use.

Attorney Laura Lloyd says:

If you are thinking of using a trademark in a foreign jurisdiction, it is important to screen for use of a mark by a third party in that jurisdiction.

If you have questions about international trademark protection, contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.

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Photo Attribution: “Victoria’s Secret Pink Store NYC, USA” by WestportWiki is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


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