California reality star loses her shirt over lawsuit threat

A reality television personality and an East Coast governor are at odds over a $35 T-shirt. Gov. Andrew Cuomo spotted a photograph of California fashion entrepreneur Khloe Kardashian wearing a shirt she sells that bore a familiar logo. The emblem on Kardashian’s shirt had surprising similarities to the logo for the state’s agriculture department.

The state and Rich Soil logos depict the Statue of Liberty highlighted against a farm field. The words on the shirts differ. The state-generated emblem says “Pride of New York” while Kardashian’s version states “Rich Soil New York.” The fonts appear to be the same.

State officials were quick to contact Kardashian’s enterprise and order the top-end clothing company to stop selling the T-shirt. The “cease and desist” order also compelled the 28-year-old fashion executive to tally up the profits her company made from the sale of the shirt.

The profits could be used against Kardashain in an intellectual property battle over copyright infringement. The reality star had no written or verbal response. The alleged copycat T-shirt was removed from the Rich Soil website within hours of the governor suggesting a lawsuit might be in the works.

A reporter asked the head of the agriculture department whether New York’s image could benefit by Khloe Kardashian wearing the questionable shirt. In fact, the state might profit by taking a different angle. Kardashian’s signature on a licensing agreement would allow her to sell the product for a fee. Pulling the shirt from the Rich Soil website only preserves the copyright.

Settlements in copyright infringement lawsuits frequently include licensing contracts. The agreement can be valuable for plaintiffs and defendants provided both are satisfied with the terms.

Attorneys realize some companies do not want copyrighted property to be associated with the owner or reputation of another business. New York officials may feel connecting its logo with the reality star could devalue the state’s brand.

Source:  nydailynews.com, “Khloe Kardashian’s clothing line yanks T-shirt Gov. Cuomo eyed for copyright lawsuit from its website” Glenn Blain and Jonathan Lemire, May. 20, 2013