by Barb on June 20, 2010
Remember when we were kids on the playground and often fought with one another when we found out that someone stole “phrase?” Well, given last week’s event, it seem as though the staff at VOGUE are still bickering in the sand pit. For those unaware of what had happened, the story is as follows: an organization in Victoria, Canada sought to host an event that allowed for small businesses to showcase their collections under the name Victoria’s Fashion Night Out. Apparently, the phrase “Fashion’s Night Out” is actually trademarked by VOGUE; the legal team was not happy and sent a letter with request for the organization to change the event’s name. An excerpt read:
“Our client did not consent to use of its Fashion’s Night Out trademark by your organization or its members and is extremely concerned by this unauthorized use of its intellectual property.”
Courtesy of The Cut
While Fashion’s Night Out serves to celebrate shopping all over the world’s major cities, I fail to see it as its title to be a necessity to be trademarked. The whole idea of Fashion’s Night Out being trademarked confounds me simply because of its construction of words. There is nothing excitingly clever about the phrase except that it serves to personify the word “fashion.” I wouldn’t go so far to call the phrase banal, but it is nothing special; there’s “mom’s night out,” “girl’s night out, and “ladies night out,” which are all frequently used for events.
But let’s also toss out another thought here; Nuit Blanche is an international all-night festival that attracts visitor from all over the globe. Participating cities include Paris, Rome, Toronto, and Lima; these four cities use the term (with the modification of language in Rome and Lima), and yet they don’t face any issues. Why? Because it’s just a phrase/term (I’m not sure how it would work internationally, truth be told); there shouldn’t be a particular connotation or sponsor to it. Toronto adds a company affiliation in its name and it is thus called “Scotiabank’s Nuit Blanche.” Of course, other participating cities have opted for different names, but that isn’t the point. The point on-hand is that the option for a particular avenue of creativity should be allowed. Had Victoria called its event “Victoria’s imitation of the Fashion’s Night Out brought to you by VOGUE,” then I can see an infringement and need for legal action.
Even though many compare this incident to the trademarking of I Die and Bananas by Rachel Zoe last year, I find that there is further complication in this case. The fact that the phrase serves to address a particular industry and places strict usage on these words leaves those in the fashion business more unnecessarily conscientious of their title choice, as they are afraid of unknowingly impinging on trade- and service- marks, whereas we don’t find many naming their lines and events “Bananas” or “I Die.”
For referential purposes, a particular phrase can be trademarked several times, provided that it is a product in a completely different industry. Should the requested trademark be too relevant to an existing one (as there are categories), it will be denied. For more information on trademarks, be sure to check out the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
Images courtesy of Vancounver Sun and Toronto.ca