Victoria’s Secret has a line of women’s panties called, simply, Pink. A menswear retailer in Britain is called Thomas Pink, and they sell pink underwear to go with their high-priced men’s shirts, among other things. The two collided in the United Kingdom’s marketplace as Victoria’s Secret went to court in a dispute over the word “Pink,” and its usage in underthings.
A British judge ruled in favor of Thomas Pink over Victoria’s Secret and their Pink brand. According to the ruling, it might be easy for shoppers to confuse menswear and women’s underwear. This can be taken as either social commentary or a division line in branding. Perhaps both.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the judge who gave the ruling is Colin Birss, well-known for his controversial trademark ruling on behalf of Samsung in the Apple iPad case on grounds that the Samsung product wasn’t as “cool,” and so, wasn’t infringing. In this case, however, no comments on the temperature of Victoria’s Secret were made in conjunction with the Pink brand.
Instead, Birss’ explanation for ruling against Victoria’s Secret was a little more mundane, but still ripe for comedians and late-night talk show hosts. “Consumers are likely to enter one of the claimant’s shops looking for lingerie,” he said on behalf of Thomas Pink, the menswear retailer. That summarizes his 217-page ruling.
In favor of Victoria’s Secret, however, the judge did say that some of the brand’s marketing for Pink was not infringing. Specifically, Victoria’s Secret is free to continue in-store Pink branding and use of the brand online. They are not allowed, however, to use it outside of the store or on clothing itself. This gives Victoria’s Secret some leeway in usage of a brand they’ve been building for some time.
The dispute is likely not over, however, as many legal analysts predict that Victoria’s Secret will appeal the decision. According to CNN Money, it is likely that the relatively narrow ruling given by Judge Bliss may be its undoing in appeal.