confusion as to association

Chanel Suit: When Can Another Marketer Use Chanel’s Brand?

On March 14, 2018, Chanel filed suit against What Goes Around Comes Around (WGACA), a group of related companies that sell pre-used “vintage” luxury-brand bags and other accessories on its website and in five bricks and mortar stores located in expensive shopping districts around the country. 

What is unusual about the suit is that Chanel is not claiming that WGACA’s items are not authentic.  Rather, Chanel is asserting that WGACA uses the CHANEL brand, promotional materials, and promotional photos in a way that misleads consumers to believe that there is an association between it and WGACA, when in fact Chanel refused to enter into such an association.

Similar cases have been brought before. What makes this case notable is that many of the activities which Chanel complains of involve social media and other 21st century means of promotion.  The case could be a landmark in drawing the line between permissible and impermissible uses of a brand by third parties.