Navajo Nation Suit Against Urban Outfitters Allowed to Move Forward
Urban Outfitters has been trying its darnedest to get a Navajo Nation lawsuit against the company tossed out of court, but a judge just ruled that the case can move forward.
Navajo Nation filed the lawsuit in 2012 in New Mexico’s federal court, claiming that the South Philadelphia-based retail conglomerate’s “Navajo” line of clothing and accessories violated trademarks owned by Navajo Nation. Urban Outfitters has said that “Navajo” is simply a generic term, a certain look.
The original complaint cited at least 20 separate Urban Outfitters “Navajo” items, from women’s underwear and earrings to men’s t-shirts and a flask. Court documents indicate that Navajo Nation owns the trademark for the term “Navajo” when used for selling everything from shoes to pillowcases and that it first applied for the trademarks way back in 1996.
In its latest legal maneuver — and believe us, there have been many — Urban Outfitters tried to argue that Navajo Nation had waited too long to file its case. After all, claimed the company, Urban Outfitters had been selling “Navajo” items since 2001, and Navajo Nation didn’t file its suit until more than a decade later.
But Navajo Nation maintains that it wasn’t until June 2011 when it learned that Urban Outfitters was using the term. That same month, Attorney General Harrison Tsosie from the Navajo Nation Department of Justice fired off a cease and desist letter to Glen Senk, then the CEO of Urban Outfitters. “Your company’s use of the Navajo name damages the Nation’s government and commercial entities,” wrote Tsosie. “The Nation’s name is the symbol of a sovereign entity in all of its governmental and commercial forms.”
New Mexico federal judge Bruce Black sided with the Navajo Nation in a ruling last week, allowing the case to continue. Urban Outfitters has not commented on the judge’s decision.
The Navajo Nation territory is comprised over more than 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
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