Upscale apparel retailer J. Crew filed a lawsuit in New York district court against discount giant Wal-Mart for copyright infringement on a selection of J. Crew’s necklaces. According to the complaint, J. Crew alleges that Wal-Mart made obvious copies of the designs of six necklaces that the retailer sold from 2012 to 2013 with reckless disregard to the protected nature of the items. Prior to the suit, J. Crew also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wal-Mart to stop them from selling the allegedly infringing necklaces. The 500-store upscale retailer said in its complaint that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is selling six different necklaces that “obviously” copy designs “created by J. Crew’s employee designers at considerable expense” with “reckless disregard” of the company’s intellectual property rights.

Typically, items of every-day fashion such as clothing, footwear, and fashion accessories are not granted protection under copyright law. However, expensive jewelry—like the statement necklaces at issue—can be covered by copyright law. By placing such items on the market that are remarkably similar, there is weight to the claim for an advertising injury. Within the complaint, J. Crew lists the creation, substantial resources, creator of the design for each necklace, and each necklace’s copyright registration number.

While the items could not be found on either retailer’s website, the difference in price is easily established by the like items available. Statement pieces, such as the allegedly infringed item, are available from J. Crew for anywhere between $168.00 to $39.50. In stark contrast, such similar jewelry items of distinctively lesser quality can be found in Wal-Mart and purchased beginning at $25.00 and dipping down to $5.00.

Keywords: copyright, copyright infringement, Wal-Mart, J.Crew, Fashion, jewelry