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H&M sues fast fashion retailer Shein for copying its designs

H&M has accused the fast fashion retailer of copying its designs in new lawsuit

Meredith Clark
New York
Wednesday 26 July 2023 07:20 BST
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H&M has filed a lawsuit against infamous fast fashion retailer Shein for copyright infringement, according to court documents filed in Hong Kong.

Hennes & Mauritz, the Swedish fashion brand more commonly known as H&M, has accused its competitor of copying its designs in the new lawsuit. The company is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction to stop Shein from infringing on its copyright and trademarks.

Zoetop Business Co, the Hong Kong-based entity that previously owned Shein, and Shein Group Ltd are named as defendants in the court filing. The series of litigation has reportedly been underway since July 2021.

According to Bloomberg, the filing included photos of H&M items, such as swimwear and sweaters, as “evidence” that Shein had stolen its designs. In a statement to The Independent, an H&M spokesperson confirmed that the company has an “ongoing copyright infringement lawsuit towards Shein filed in Hong Kong.”

“We believe that Shein in multiple cases has infringed on our designs and have therefore filed this lawsuit. As it is still an ongoing case, we choose not to comment further,” they said.

Meanwhile, Shein declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The copyright infringement case was first heard in Hong Kong court last September, and the judge allowed the case to proceed, according to a separate document released in May. The most recent hearing took place at the Hong Kong High Court on 21 June, followed by the next hearing on 31 July.

The new lawsuit comes less than two weeks after Shein was accused by independent designers of infringement-related racketeering activities in a RICO lawsuit. The lawsuit, which was filed on 11 July in California federal court, claimed the clothing giant had used “secretive algorithm” to identify trending art and allegedly reproduced artists’ designs for its fast fashion website.

“The brand has made billions by creating a secretive algorithm that astonishingly determines nascent fashion trends – and by coupling it with a corporate structure, including production and fulfillment schemes, that are perfectly executed to grease the wheels of the algorithm, including its unsavory and illegal aspects,” claimed artists Krista Perry, Larissa Martinez, and Jay Baron.

The plaintiffs also filed a RICO claim, a federal law designed to combat organised crime in the United States. The law, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, allows individuals or organisations to file civil claims against racketeering activities performed as an ongoing criminal enterprise.

According to the suit, the artists alleged that Shein’s “confusing corporate structure” allows the company to “avoid liability” in the case of intellectual property infringement, adding that the brand’s “first line of defense” when facing a copyright or trademark cease and desist is “removing the product from its sites with blaming the misconduct on another [Shein entity] actor (implying such actor is independent).”

As a result, the artists accused Shein of “multiple acts of racketeering and criminal copyright infringement” and are seeking past and future damages, as well as compensation for legal fees and injunctive relief to “prevent further racketeering activity”.

In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for Shein said at the time: “SHEIN takes all claims of infringement seriously, and we take swift action when complaints are raised by valid IP rights holders. We will vigorously defend ourselves against this lawsuit and any claims that are without merit.”

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