Fashion Law Center Legal Editorial
Urban Outfitters’ controversial “Navajo Hipster Panty”
In its recent lawsuit against Urban Outfitters for the unauthorized use of the Navajo Nation’s trademarks, the Navajo Nation risks winning a limited or even counter-productive victory. The underlying issue in this case is too important (the global exploitation of the intellectual property of indigenous peoples) to be fully resolved in a courtroom.
Urban Outfitters has certainly been guilty of a major public relations gaffe and it seems likely that they have committed trademark infringement and dilution as well, among other things. However, a court victory by the Navajo Nation will do little to address the broader problem, which is that corporations profitably exploit the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples but then do nothing to compensate or reward those indigenous peoples.
Both Urban Outfitters and the Navajo Nation would be wise to resolve this conflict amicably and with a mutual commitment to productive cooperation, such as in a long-term sponsorship or partnership. Urban Outfitters, in particular, should consider the downside of continuing on an adversary path and risking a consumer backlash or boycott. Continue reading