What do you do if a major department store chain uses your trademarked designs on its products without your permission? You take them to court for trademark infringement, of course.
That’s what happened when illustrator Lili Chin found out that Kohl’s department stores were selling merchandise with illustrations strikingly similar, if not nearly identical, to her work.
Chin filed a copyright infringement and unfair competition lawsuit against Kohl’s and some of its manufacturers in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, last month. The case centers on an illustration created by Chin consisting of a poster with a montage of her black and white Boston terrier, Boogie.
The 2011 work titled “Doggie Language” shows Boogie in various poses with captions underneath, such as “I’m friendly” and “Hello I love you.” There are total of 29 illustrations on the poster. She also sells t-shirts emblazoned with her illustrations and gives a portion of her sales to dog rescue organizations. Chin filed for copyright protection in 2013 and the work contains the copyright symbol ©.
Images nearly identical to Boogie appear on socks and t-shirts sold at Kohl’s department stores. Kohl’s is the second largest department store chain in the country with annual sales exceeding $10 billion. Chin states that she contacted Kohl’s in July of this year and demanded they stop using the illustrations, but they have ignored her requests and continued to sell the products.
Chin is requesting a jury trial with damages exceeding $1 million plus attorney fees. She has retained attorney Andrew Gerber of KG Law in New York City. Gerber represented artist David Anasagasti, aka “Aholsniffsglue” in a similar suit against American Outfitters in 2014. American Outfitters settled out of court.
Kohl’s has yet to release a statement.