Plus-size brand Universal Standard sues Target over Universal Thread private label

Target's private-label denim brand Universal Thread has been sued by plus-size brand Universal Standard which alleges that the mass market retailer is infringing on its trademark and confusing customers with its marketing.


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In the complaint filed in New York federal court, Universal Standard alleges that similarities in name and brand positioning as a plus-size denim brand "have and will continue to cause confusion of consumers at the time of initial interest, sale, and in the post-sale setting, who will believe [Target’s] products are originating from, associated with, and/or approved by Universal Standard."

Aside from the brand names, Universal Standard also highlights similarities in the two labels' messaging. Target, for example, tells consumers that Universal Thread's designers go to "great lengths to perfect every fit, in every piece, in every size", while Universal Standard's message is that "everything in the collection is precisely engineered from size to size.”

Universal Standard was founded in 2015 and quickly gained traction as a premium plus-size denim brand. The company garnered a $7 million investment this spring from Imaginary Ventures, the VC firm founded by Net-a-Porter's Natalie Massenet. Universal Standard's other investors include Gwyneth Paltrow and the founders of SoulCycle.

The company alleges that Target is attempting to trade off its goodwill and growing brand reputation in plus-size denim, claiming that the retailer is selling its private label "with the knowledge and intent that such goods will be mistaken for genuine high-quality Universal Standard products."

While likelihood of confusion is a central facet of a trademark case, a fact which might suggest certain victory for Universal Standard, the brand may have more of an uphill battle depending on the scope of Target's own trademark, as the retailer was already awarded publication rights for Universal Thread on related goods and services.

Target has not yet filed an official answer to the complaint which was filed earlier this week.

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