Supreme’s streetwear clothing is popular in California and all across the country. However, the clothing brand is facing some business challenges. Supreme is engaged in a copyright dispute with another firm, ASAT Outdoors. Essentially, ASAT Outdoor is accusing Supreme of stealing ASAT’s proprietary camouflage design. In November 2019, ASAT Outdoors sued Supreme’s parent company, Chapter 4 Corporation, accusing them of violating ASAT’s copyright ownership over a specific camouflage print.
ASAT Outdoors claims to have exclusive intellectual property ownership to the camouflage design in question and that other companies that want to use it must purchase a license for the pattern. Supreme created jackets and cargo pants featuring the camouflage print, and ASAT filed suit demanding profits from the sale of the merchandise and additional statutory damages for copyright infringement.
In its response, Supreme’s parent company Chapter 4, says that it did not license the print from ASAT before producing the clothing. Chapter 4 Corporation also noted the fact that ASAT purchased the print and its copyright from the original designer over 20 years ago. However, since that transaction was completed, ASAT has held exclusive rights to the copyright, including the abilities to using the print and licensing its use to other parties. In addition, Chapter 4 disputes that the Supreme items in question reflects a print that is included in ASAT’s copyright registration portfolio.
Chapter 4 Corporation claims that Supreme has a fair use defense to the copyright infringement allegations. While fair use has previously been used to exempt parodies, critiques and commentaries on an original, copyrighted image or text, it is unclear how the Supreme clothing items would be considered commentary on the camouflage print. Furthermore, the items were put up for sale, adding a commercial component that can undermine a fair use defense determination.
For creative individuals and companies, protecting intellectual property can be an essential part of a business identity. Companies dealing with copyright infringement or misuse of their trademarks may consult with an intellectual property lawyer about potential litigation.