Navajo Nation settles trademark suit against Urban Outfitters

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe, has settled a trademark suit brought against the apparel retail chain Urban Outfitters Inc over use of the tribe’s name in company merchandise, the two sides said on Friday.

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The deal resolves any and all claims by the tribe, whose reservation spans three Western states, contesting the Philadelphia company’s “Navajo” and “Navaho” brands in a variety of products, including pullovers, feathered earrings and underwear.

Navajo leaders claimed in the 2012 lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, that the retailer had infringed on the tribe’s trademark rights by selling more than 20 lines of products under those two brand names.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Court records show that a federal judge formally dismissed the case on Monday.

But a statement by Navajo leaders said the two parties have also signed a “supply and license agreement” and plan to collaborate on authentic American Indian jewelry in future years.

“We believe in protecting our Nation, our artisans, designs, prayers and way of life,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “We expect that any company considering the use of the Navajo name, or our designs or motifs, will ask us for our permission.”

Azeez Hayne, the company’s general counsel, said in the statement that Urban Outfitters was pleased with the agreement.

“(Urban Outfitters) has long been inspired by the style of Navajo and other American Indian artists and looks forward to the opportunity to work with them on future collaborations,” Hayne said.

A Navajo spokesman declined comment on any specifics of the settlement, adding that the agreement was confidential. A company spokesman likewise declined further comment.

The territory of Navajo, a sovereign American Indian nation with some 300,000 enrolled members, occupies 27,425 square miles (71,010 square km) in parts of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico. The seat of the tribal government is located at Window Rock, Arizona.

Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler