Barneys New York / Bloomingdales.com
Derek Lam's "Ayami" wedge, at left; Ivanka Trump's "Cadie" wedge, at right.
In the past year, many designers have been increasingly active in filing legal complaints in an effort to protect their own designs and copyrights, where applicable. Despite the fact that many designers face an uphill battle in terms of design lawsuits, more and more are speaking out -- from Christian Louboutin to Proenza Schouler.
The latest is Derek Lam, who has apparently sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ivanka Trump Footwear over what he describes Trump's having "blatantly and intentionally copied" the design of one of his shoes, according to WWD.
At issue is Trump's "Cadie" wedge sandal ($150), which Lam alleges is virtually identical to his "Ayami" wedge ($780). According to WWD, one of the shoe designers at Derek Lam was apparently shopping on Bloomingdales.com and spotted the Trump shoe, then called up the the Derek Lam CEO:
“We have seen very similar copies before but we have never seen a shoe that perfectly copied,” said Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann, chief executive officer of Derek Lam. “It’s such an investment to make a shoe ... we had to protest this.”
Considering how difficult it can often be in court to win a battle such as this one -- a designer may have to first prove that the shoe is recognizable enough to be a trademark, as a legal expert told us earlier this year -- Lam's team is likely hoping that the letter alone (and the resulting publicity) will be enough to force Trump Footwear and its licensee, Marc Fisher Footwear, to pull the shoe from shelves.
UPDATE: Marc Fischer Footwear has responded to Lam's letter through a statement reported in WWD, saying the company has no intentions of meeting Lam's demands, and adds that the design is not "iconic:"
“The Lam wedge sandals are of a popular design type that has been used by numerous manufacturers for many decades. There is nothing iconic about the appearance of the Lam sandal,” a representative from Marc Fisher told WWD. “The Ivanka Trump sandals prominently display the Ivanka Trump name, and there can be no confusion as to the source of the Ivanka Trump sandals. Therefore, Marc Fisher Footwear, the licensee of the Ivanka Trump brand, strongly denies Lam’s claims.”
As we'd previously pointed out, it's incredibly difficult for any designer to win a legal suit claiming a design has been copied because the burden of proof is massive and rests on the accuser. In this case, Lam faces a tough decision -- to risk a lawsuit, or hope that the damage of a moment of bad press is enough to make the Trump design team more cautious going forward.