Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters Over Trademark
The Navajo Nation is suing clothing retailer Urban Outfitters after it failed to stop using the term “Navajo” to market its clothing.
In June 2011, the Navajo Nation sent the popular clothing chain a cease-and-desist letter demanding that they stop selling products labeled as “Navajo,” which the Navajo Nation has trademarked. The letter argued that:
Consumers will incorrectly believe that the Nation has licensed, approved, or authorized your corporation’s use of the Navajo name and trademarks for its products—when the Nation has not—or that your corporation’s use of Navajo is an extension of the Nation’s family of trademarks—which it is not.
Urban Outfitters originally alleged that it had never received the letter. But after media scrutiny, company officials promptly removed all 24 items labeled “Navajo”—including a “Navajo Hipster Panty” and “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask”—from its website.
The lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court in New Mexico, alleges that Urban Outfitters violated trademark and the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which makes it illegal to falsely suggest American Indians created products. Additionally, the Navajo Nation holds trademarks for 12 derivatives of “Navajo,” including clothing.
Though Urban Outfitters pulled all the offending items from its website once the company acknowledged the cease and desist letter, Campus Progress reported in October that one of Urban Outfitters’ other brands, Free People, continued to carry items labeled “Navajo.” The suit also alleges that items labeled “Navajo” continued to be sold in Urban Outfitters catalogs and retail stores.
This lawsuit isn’t the first time the Navajo Nation has asserted its trademarks, though it’s never gone to federal court before. Last year, the tribe was able to force a French company to stop using a Navajo trademark.
In the Urban Outfitters suit, the Navajo Nation has asked for monetary compensation and an order permanently preventing the company from using the name "Navajo" or variations on its products.
Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.