— Karen Brennan, Attorney

Last week, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported that Coach filed a complaint in New York against Minneapolis-based Target Corporation, alleging infringement of two of its handbag designs.  Coach claims Target’s new designs are too similar to two of its bags, including the Ergo and Signature Patchwork bags:

Target is not alone.  Coach also filed a lawsuit against Brown Shoe Co., Inc., parent company of Naturalizer, in June, 2009, accusing the company of copying the Ergo Pleated bag.

Lookalikes have long been an issue in the fashion world.   While counterfeits are illegal, the rules are much less clear in the world of lookalikes and can come down to just how similar a design is to an “original.”  What is clear is that designers and manufacturers in the fashion world are becoming more and more aggressive in protecting their designs.  A few more recent examples include:

Gucci filed suit against Guess earlier this year for trademark infringement for use of the “g” logo on handbags.

Alexander McQueen recently accused Steve Madden Ltd. of trade dress infringement over a designer bootie.

Deckers Outdoor Corp. (Ugg) filed a lawsuit against in California against numerous defendants alleging infringement of its Classic Cardy boot.

Finally, the tables have turned in one recent lawsuit.  Louis Vuitton, known for avidly protecting its designs, has recently become familiar with the other side of case.  New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. accused Louis Vuitton of trademark infringement, alleging Louis Vuitton copied one of its popular shoe designs.

As noted on Stylelist, the New Balance sneaker (top) retails for around $75, while the Louis Vuitton sneaker will run you around $590 (bottom).