PHOENIX (Reuters) - The Navajo, the largest Native American tribe in the United States, is suing clothing chain Urban Outfitters Inc., accusing it of trademark violations for using the tribe’s name on products including pullovers, feather earrings and underwear.
The tribe filed suit late on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, alleging trademark infringement and violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act by the retailer which it said sells more than 20 products under the names “Navajo” or “Navaho.”
“In this action, the Navajo Nation seeks to protect its famous and distinct Navajo name and trademark, and to ensure that consumers are no longer deceived, confused, or misled in their pursuits to find and acquire authentic and genuine Navajo products,” the suit said.
The lawsuit followed a formal letter to Urban Outfitters last year demanding that it cease and desist using the Navajo trademark on its brands, an attorney for the Nation said.
The firm had since pulled the “Navajo” and “Navaho” lines from its website, but continued to sell the products through its subsidiaries, the attorney added.
Urban Outfitters, which operates subsidiaries Anthropologie and Free People that were also named in the suit, did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.
The suit said the tribe had been known by the name “Navajo” since at least 1849, with a trademark lodged in 1943 for use in commerce. The tribe currently has 86 registered trademarks in use covering products including clothing, blankets, jewelry, foods and tools.
It said that since at least March 2009, Urban Outfitters has advertised, promoted and sold its goods under the “Navaho” and “Navajo” names on the Internet and in stores across the United States to compete directly with the Navajo Nation’s retail goods.
The retailer has sold over 20 products using the two names, which the suit noted are phonetically identical, to sell products that included the “Escote Navajo Wool Tote Bag” at $39 and the “Navajo Hipster Panty” line at $25 for a pack of five.
The attorney for the Navajo Nation told Reuters the tribe was seeking to get Urban Outfitters to desist using the Navajo name and trademark, and was also seeking monetary damages that will be determined during the discovery process. It was not immediately clear what those damages would amount to.
The Navajo Nation is a sovereign Indian Nation with over 300,000 enrolled members. Its lands span parts of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston