A New York City designer and former intellectual property paralegal is suing major clothing retailers like Macy’s and Forever 21 over their use of the term “LES NYC,” according to reports.
Robert G. Lopez owns LES Clothing, a small business on the Lower East Side that sells neighborhood-themed apparel.
Lopez has sued a number of large retailers in recent years that used Lower East Side designs, among them Bloomingdale’s, Gap, J Crew, Macy’s, Puma, and Urban Outfitters. His most recent legal action was against Forever 21 this year, World Trademark Review reported.
Lopez says he’s been using the term “LES NYC” on clothing since 1999. After a three-year battle with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Lopez was able to trademark the term across the U.S. in 2014.
But despite his trademark, large companies continue to use LES imagery. Lopez says he takes the major fashion brands to court because cease-and-desist letters are often ignored by those businesses. On the other hand, they are legally obligated to respond to litigation.
“Some of these bigger companies will automatically see me as a small business owner not represented by counsel, and they themselves will be represented by some of the biggest law firms in the country,” Lopez told World Trademark Review.
World Trademark Review reports that Lopez has filed 19 trademark-related lawsuits since 2009. Eight of them were filed just this year and the majority reached a “likely settlement.”
The large number of lawsuits has led some parties to label Lopez as a “trademark troll.” But he says this accusation is “disparaging.”
“I look at myself as a small business owner that is fortunate enough to be in a position to go against some of these major corporations that have violated my IP rights,” he said.
As the lawsuits continue, Lopez says litigation isn’t his preferred route, but big businesses continue to ignore the legal demands of smaller ones like his.
“[They will] put it in the drawer and laugh or will pay it no attention and pretend it doesn’t exist,” he told World Trademark Review. “[I’m] making sure I’m the one to throw the first punch.”