On December 28, 2018, both Calvin Klein and the parent company of the department store Saks Fifth Avenue, were sued by Wongab Corporation in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Wongab Corporation is a Korean company that creates fabric designs for the apparel industry. Wongab claims “it spends a considerable amount of time and resources creating marketable and aesthetically appealing artwork.”
Wongab claims to own a copyright for the following design titled “PCM-229-D205” (“Subject Design):
Wongab does not provide a copy of either the copyright or the copyright registration number in the complaint. A search of the Copyright Office records shows that Wongab owns the following copyright registrations, none of which appear to correspond to the Subject Design:
There is a copyright registration owned by an individual named Yong Uk Lee, however, titled PCM-2299-D205. This number is not exactly the same as the one for the Subject Design, but it is similar. It is possible that Yong Uk Lee is either affiliated with Wongab or has assigned the copyright to Wongab.
Wongab alleges that after it distributed the Subject Design, Saks began selling clothing incorporating this design under the “Calvin Klein” label. Photos of the Accused Products allegedly sold by Saks, as referenced in the Complaint, are shown below:
Additionally, Wongab claims that the Accused Product infringes a utility patent, 8,448,476, entitled “WARP KNITTING FABRIC HAVING GROUND ORGANIZATION EXPRESSING VARIOUS DESIGN PATTERNS” (’476 Patent). While it is uncommon to have utility patents in the fashion industry, as we have discussed previously (here), there are instances when a utility patent is beneficial.
The ’476 patent consists of 21 figures, 8 columns of text, and 8 claims. The patent states that the invention “relates to warp knitting fabrics having a ground organization and a pattern organization formed by a Raschel machine that is a kind of warp knitting machine, and more specifically, to warp knitting fabrics having a ground organization expressing various design patterns.”
The ’476 patent states that the invention:
1. provides “warp knitting fabrics . . . having various shapes . . . consecutively expressed in the form of various unit designs, and the unit designs have various types of array structures,” and
2. provides “warp knitting fabrics having a harmonious and distinct three-dimensional effect by combining various pattern organizaitons on a ground organizaiton having various design shapes.”
The ’476 patent indicates that Figure 6, shown below, shows one cycle in the ground organization consisting of two-column unit designs 10 and 20 repeated in the transverse direction, where each of the unit designs 10 and 20 has a plurality of rectangular unit organizations consecutively arranged in the longitudinal direction. The ’476 patent explains that Figure 6 shows the unit organizations knitted in network structures having different shapes from one another.
The ’476 patent states that this ground organization can be combined with a pattern organization to form warp knitted fabircs having a high-quality design as shown in Figure 21, below.
Claim 1 is the only independent claim, thus it should be the broadest claim. Claim 1 recites:
Warp knitting fabrics, comprising:
a ground organization formed with warps knitted into a loop shape; and
a pattern organization knitted on the ground organization,
wherein the ground organization includes two or more unit designs continuously arranged in a transverse direction of the ground organization,
each of the unit designs comprises two or more unit organizations arranged in a longitudinal direction of the ground organization,
each of the unit organizations comprising a specific loop shape of a network structure formed by a chain of a specific chain number group comprising an array of a plurality of chain numbers, and
each of the unit organizations has a different loop shape of a network structure from each other.
This is not the first lawsuit that Wongab has filed. Wongab has filed at least 13 lawsuits in the Central District of California alleging infringement of its ’476 Patent and various copyrighted designs against major retailers such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Urban Otufitters, Target, Kohls, H&M, BCBG, and Forever 21. Most of these cases have been settled and dismissed. However, it is clear that Wongab is not hesitant to file a lawsuit when it believes its warp knitting patent and copyrighted designs are being infringed.knitting patent and copyrighted designs are being infringed.
Editor: Catherine Holland