Vivienne Westwood has asserted her rights to the marks Let It Rock, Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and Worlds End (the names of the shop at 430 King’s Road operated by Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1980 to date respectively).
This is significant. While Worlds End has clearly been Westwood’s since she split with the late McLaren in 1984, they adopted a laissez-faire attitude to enforcing their intellectual property rights to the shop names and dozens of designs created during the 13-year partnership which also included the incarnations of 430 as SEX (1974-76) and Seditionaries (1976-80).
And where does Westwood’s move cast McLaren’s role in their design relationship? He has previously been credited (by himself and others, including Westwood) as not only the inventor of these shop names and environments but also as the driving force of their creative vision up until the opening of Seditionaries in December 1976 (which marked Westwood’s emergence as a designer in her own right; she also came up with the name).
Yet in submissions for a case heard last month in the Patents County Court, Westwood said that it was she who created the distinctive Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die shop insignia erected in 1973.
This formed just one part of Westwood’s testimony as she successfully sued UK-based internet clothing trader Tony Knight for copyright and trademark infringement over his usage of such brand names as “Let It Rock”, “Too Fast To Live To (sic) Young To Die” and “Worlds End Apparel”.
THE LOOK broke the story of Knight’s activities via his companies Red Planet and Saint Art Junki here two years ago; elements of our investigation were used in the hearing where Knight was found to have passed off Westwood’s intellectual property as his own via “the systematic exploitation of [her] marks”, using such Westwood-associated motifs as the Worlds End/Anglomania arm & cutlass, the royal orb, the Active Resistance initials AR and a lips t-shirt design.
Judge Colin Birss QC also ruled that Knight’s registration of such domain names as www.toofasttolivetoyoungtodie.co.uk, www.2fasttolive.co.uk and www.letitrock.co.uk amounted to passing off.
Westwood was represented in court by her business manager Carlo D’Amario, who revealed the designer’s wholesale revenue last year was £80 million worldwide and £30 million in the UK. In 2008, Westwood launched the Let It Rock fragrance and extended the brand to accessories; wholesale income for LIR goods over consecutive years was £740,000 (2008), £215,000 (2009) and £547,000 (2010).
When Westwood attempted to register Let It Rock via her subsidiary Latimo, Knight unsuccessfully opposed the application.
Westwood’s victory underlines how tweaks to existing marks are insufficient protection for those who seek to exploit the intellectual property of others.
“Any infringer who takes the original mark and merely adds inconsequential details will not be able to avoid liability if the dominant aspects of the original mark are retained,” says Rachel Cook, a fashion law expert at lawyers Fox Williams. “The court decided that the overall result of systematic mimicking was a reinforcement in the minds of consumers that there was some link with Vivienne Westwood.”
“This precedent was a clear victory for successful fashion houses that are often victims of imitation and counterfeit products,” says Leslie Chong of Osgoode Hall Law School.
Read Judge Birss’ judgment here.