Surf & Turf: Owning Your Name

Comparison of Thaddeus O'Neil and O'Neill trademarks

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Celebrated indie designer Thaddeus O’Neill has been racking up honors for his luxury line inspired by surf culture: Woolmark Prize finalist, top 10 in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition, and now a CFDA Fashion Incubator designer. Like any savvy creator, he is seeking to protect his brand equity by registering his trademark, but this is where the legal surfing has become a bit heavy, as European-owned apparel brand O’Neill is challenging the registration.

The Fashion Law Institute has put together a pro bono team to help Thaddeus with this case, with Roxanne Elings of Davis Wright Tremaine serving as counsel, and Professor Scafidi has this to say about how emerging designers can protect their interests:

“There is such a long history, particularly in the fashion industry, of designers using their names on the label and consumers understanding that companies may have similar but different names.”

What recourse does O’Neil have now that O’Neill has shown signs of not backing down? “He can fight this on the grounds of tradition and by showing the opposite of what O’Neill is trying to claim, that the products are different.”

For more, check out coverage of the dispute in The Business of Fashion.