Navajo Claims Against Urban Outfitters Not Too Late

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

April 5 — The Navajo Nation didn't wait too long to accuse Urban Outfitters Inc. of infringing more than 100 of its “Navajo” trademarks, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico ruled March 31.

The retail clothing chain tried to have the Navajos' federal and state law claims kicked out under the doctrine of laches, which blocks a lawsuit when the plaintiff has waited too long to act.

But Urban Outfitters failed to show that the Navajos knew or should have known about the allegedly infringing use when the chain sold a series of “Navajo” items from 2001 to 2003, the court said. 

The Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters of Philadelphia—and its subsidiaries Anthropologie Inc. and Free People LLC—in 2012 for using “Navajo” and “Navaho” in connection with clothes, jewelry and accessories, starting in March 2009.

The Navajos brought claims under Sections 32 and 43 of the Lanham Trademark Act of 1946, 15 U.S.C. §1114 and 1125, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, 25 U.S.C. §305, and the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act, N.M. Stat. §157-12-3.

Judge Bruce D. Black issued the court's ruling.

The Navajo Nation Department of Justice and Keller Rohrback LLP represented the Navajo Nation. Dickinson Wright PLLC and Butt Thornton & Baehr P.C. represented Urban Outfitters.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at mwilczek@bna.com

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