When Fast Food and Fashion Come Together
This season’s fashion shows have been making an unusual connection with food. While the fashion industry is often associated with starving models subsiding on cigarettes and Diet Coke, Chanel’s Paris Fashion Week presentation spoke to the everyday woman and showed a supermarket experience as it relates to fashion in a practical way. Beyond sportswear in the grocery aisles, Moschino turned heads with its pop culture infused ready-to-wear collection in Milan. Jeremy Scott used famous marks from McDonald’s, Hershey’s and SpongeBob Squarepants for over half the looks that walked down the Moschino runway. This leaves the open question of the legality of Scott’s use of these marks.
It would be difficult for McDonald’s to argue trademark infringement since U.S. trademark law is based on a likelihood of confusion standard. Considering the very distinct markets that Moschino and McDonald’s serve, it would be highly unlikely that a consumer would confuse the Moschino’s collection to be part of the fast food empire. Certainly Moschino’s red and yellow handbag that retails at $1,265 is not catering to the same consumer purchasing a Big Mac for $4. Additionally, Moschino could bring a parody defense because many of the marks have been manipulated in a playful manner. This indicates that Scott may be poking fun at the mass production of counterfeits and knockoffs in the fashion industry, or noting the commercial value societies put on famous marks.
On the other hand, the fame of the Golden Arches could create a valid dilution claim against Moschino, which requires blurring or tarnishing of the brand. Dilution through blurring occurs when a famous mark’s distinctiveness is impaired by the similarity of the other party’s use of the mark. McDonald’s could argue that Moschino’s use of its mark has weakened it because the marks used by Moschino are remarkably similar to McDonald’s. In contrast, dilution through tarnishment is when a mark’s reputation has been harmed. Reports have surfaced that McDonald’s workers find the use offensive and degrading by mocking the fast food workers and their uniforms.
The best way to avoid all legal issues would have been for these famous mark owners to license the rights to their marks to Moschino. McDonald’s has already commented that they were not aware of Moschino’s use of their marks until after the collection was presented. Whether or not any legal action will be taken is still unclear; however, McDonald’s doesn’t seem to be upset with Scott’s use of its marks by applauding the collection, and even linking to the fashion house on its Facebook page. Maybe fast food and fashion do go together after all.