Despite the kick-back-and-enjoy-life message on its trademark T-shirts, a Clematis Street-based clothing designer and distributor doesn’t run from a fight – even against far bigger competitors.
Proving its feistiness, Island Company on Friday filed suit against Abercrombie & Fitch in U.S. District Court, claiming the clothing behemoth stole Island’s happy-go-lucky message. It’s asking a federal judge to force the iconic Ohio-based Abercrombie to stop using a slightly altered version of Island Company’s signature message, destroy any merchandise that features it and pay handily for ripping off its idea in the first place.
At the root of the dispute is this phrase: “Quit Your Job; Buy A Ticket; Get A Tan; Fall In Love; Never Return.” Island Company, a privately held company formed by writer, dive instructor and aspiring movie maker Spencer Antle, has been printing what it calls “The Mark” on T-shirts since April 2005, according to the lawsuit. It even had it trademarked.
“The Mark is a symbol of Island Company’s quality, reputation and goodwill and has never been abandoned,” the suit said.
So, it claims, it was understandably miffed when it discovered this message on an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt: “Buy A Ticket; Dream Big; Take A Chance; Never Return.”
Antle, a University of Miami creative writing graduate who formed the company on a whim after designing a swimsuit for a girlfriend, wasn’t available for comment Friday. Abercrombie & Fitch, which has a special section on its website to scare off would be counterfeiters, declined comment.
It’s not the first time Antle has gone to court to fend off others he believed had stolen his words. In 2008, he sued a U.S. Virgin Islands retailer in federal court here, claiming it was using the trademarked phrase on its merchandise without permission. A year later, the lawsuit against St. John Editions was settled out of court. Later that year, he filed a similar lawsuit against a retailer based in East Hampton, N.Y. Within months, an out-of-court settlement was reached with Khanh’s Sports and Boutique as well.
“We fiercely protect our trademark,” a spokeswoman for Antle said.
The recent lawsuit ignites a David-vs.-Goliath battle. From its loft on Clematis, Island Company provides its clothing to hundreds of upscale stores across the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean islands. It also has a store on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
In 2008, it forecast $3 million in sales. By comparison, the publicly traded Abercrombie & Fitch reported $4.5 billion in sales last year.