Acclaimed U.S.-based artist Electra Printz Gorski is suing the Australian Cotton On Group for allegedly stealing her designs.
Gorski says that the clothing behemoth “flagrantly” knocked off a clothing design she created in 2011 depicting the slogan ‘LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET’. She has since sold clothing, gift wrap, prints, stickers and tote bags bearing the slogan.
An Australian-based Etsy designer noticed a Cotton On store was selling tank tops in Melbourne bearing the same slogan and contacted Gorski to ask if she had sold her design to the Australian clothing brand, which has over 1400 stores in 18 countries worldwide. Gorski then sent a cease and desist letter to Cotton On Group accusing the company of willfully infringing her copyright and trademark, and alleging that a senior Cotton On designer ‘pinned’ one of her designs on Pinterest three years ago.
In its reply, Cotton On Group denied that it had infringed on Gorski’s rights in any way because they were not using the phrase “LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET” as a trademark. “Until receipt of your email, our client did not have knowledge of any trademarks registered in your name,” said COG lawyer Adam Walker. “In any event, notwithstanding the existence of trade marks apparently registered to you, our client is not using LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET as a trademark. Those words are clearly an amusing pun and being used on Cotton On products in that context.”
COG has since agreed not to manufacture any more products with the slogan on them, as long as Ms Gorski withdraws her “groundless threats” of legal proceedings. Gorski was unhappy with their response and so lodged a statement of claim for loss and damage in Federal Court. The case, which will be mediated in August, isn’t the first time COG has been sued for knocking off slogans from other designers, after youth brand Elwood took legal action in 2008 and won their case.
“The Cotton On Group has the utmost respect for the work of all individual designers and has a zero tolerance approach to the flagrant copying of designers,” said COG in a statement. “As a business, we take matters like these very seriously and closely govern our design processes with a strong focus on training and educating our people on respecting boundaries of inspiration.”