Navajo Nation seeks potentially millions of dollars from Urban Outfitters

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation is seeking potentially millions of dollars from Urban Outfitters Inc. over clothing, jewelry and other merchandise bearing the tribe’s name that the popular retailer has sold.

The clothing chain asked a federal judge in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Wednesday to limit how far back in time the tribe can go to seek money over the company’s products, which included everything from necklaces, jackets and pants to a flask and underwear with the “Navajo” name. The judge did not issue an immediate ruling.

In this Oct. 14, 201, file photo, purchased items from Urban Outfitters' Navajo line are shown in Tempe, Ariz. The Navajo Nation is suing Urban Outfitters months after the tribe sent a cease and desist letter to the clothing retailer demanding it pull the "Navajo" name from its products. The lawsuit filed late Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in U.S. Federal Court in New Mexico alleges trademark infringements and violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act | AP Photo by Matt York, St. George News
In this Oct. 14, 201, file photo, purchased items from Urban Outfitters’ Navajo line are shown in Tempe, Ariz. The Navajo Nation is suing Urban Outfitters months after the tribe sent a cease and desist letter to the clothing retailer demanding it pull the “Navajo” name from its products. The lawsuit filed late Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in U.S. Federal Court in New Mexico alleges trademark infringements and violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act | AP Photo by Matt York, St. George News

The tribe’s lawsuit alleging trademark violations has been working its way through the courts for more than three years. Efforts to settle the case featuring two unlikely foes have failed as the tribe seeks vast sums of money from the company that also owns the Anthropologie and Free People brands.

Here are things to know about the case:

WHAT IS THE NAVAJO NATION SEEKING?

The Navajo Nation wants revenue from products sold by Urban Outfitters and its subsidiaries under the “Navajo” name dating back to 2008. The actual amount isn’t quantified in court documents, but it could amount to millions of dollars.

On some claims, the tribe wants all the profits generated from the Navajo-themed sales. On others, it wants $1,000 per day per item, or three times the profit generated by marketing and retail of products using the name.

Urban Outfitters says the tribe deserves nothing from 2008 to when the lawsuit was filed, arguing that the company has been burdened by the tribe’s unreasonable delay in asserting its alleged rights.

WHAT IS THE BASIS OF THE LAWSUIT?

The tribe’s 2012 lawsuit alleges violations of federal and state trademark laws, including the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which makes it illegal to sell arts or crafts in a way to falsely suggest they’re made by American Indians.

Urban Outfitters says “Navajo” is a generic term for a style or design. The company wants a judge to determine it hasn’t infringed upon the tribe’s rights and to cancel the tribe’s federal trademark registrations.

WHAT IS THE MERCHANDISE IN QUESTION?

The geometric prints popular in clothing often are inspired by Native American designs. Urban Outfitters said it started using the “Navajo” or “Navaho” name on its products and in marketing as early as July 2001, when the fashion trend was in full swing.

Its subsidiaries followed suit, with the companies selling cuffs, necklaces, jackets, pants, a flask and panties, among other merchandise. The companies said they quit selling the products after hearing of the tribe’s lawsuit.

The Navajo Nation holds trademarks on the “Navajo” name for things like clothing, footwear and online retail sales.

In this Oct. 14, 2011 photo, Pedestrians walks past Urban Outfitters in Tempe, Ariz. The Navajo Nation is seeking millions of dollars from Urban Outfitters Inc. over clothing, jewelry and other merchandise bearing the tribe’s name in a lawsuit alleging trademark violations | AP Photo by Matt York, St. George News
In this Oct. 14, 2011 photo, Pedestrians walks past Urban Outfitters in Tempe, Ariz. The Navajo Nation is seeking millions of dollars from Urban Outfitters Inc. over clothing, jewelry and other merchandise bearing the tribe’s name in a lawsuit alleging trademark violations | AP Photo by Matt York, St. George News

NAVAJO POLICING OF TRADEMARKS

The lawsuit against Urban Outfitters is the first such action taken by the tribe in federal court to assert its trademarks. Former Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie has said the tribe twice protested the unauthorized use of “Navajo” before it sued and sent at least four dozen protest letters afterward.

The tribe relies on its members and an agreement with a Texas-based company that licenses the “Navajo” name to monitor use of the term and alert the tribal government to possible trademark infringement.

WHAT IS THE NAVAJO NATION?

The Navajo Nation refers both to the tribal government and to the 27,000 square miles that make up the tribe’s reservation in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico — the country’s largest. About 180,000 of the 300,000 Navajo tribal members live on the reservation. The tribe’s population is second only to the Cherokee Nation.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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8 Comments

  • .... February 11, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    LOL ! Are we at war with the Indians again ?

    • ladybugavenger February 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Can’t be stealing from the Indians no more…urban outfitters must be pale skins

  • .... February 11, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Well here it comes again..can’t use the name Washington Redskins . It’s offensive . can’t use the name Cleveland Indians. It’s offensive. can’t use the name Atlanta Braves . that’s offensive. can’t use the name Kansas City Chiefs. that’s offensive
    can’t call a restaurant and make a reservation for dinner because the word reservation is offensive.

    • ladybugavenger February 12, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      Ok, the reservation part was funny

  • Machele February 12, 2016 at 8:06 am

    It’s the name of an entire group of people!!! they are saying its generic because the white people to think there is nothing wrong with taking something that’s not theirs, Im glad the Navajo Nation is sticking up for themselves makes me proud to be Native

    • .... February 12, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Well so is the word Mexican and they don’t ain’t got no problems with us selling tacos

      • ladybugavenger February 13, 2016 at 2:34 pm

        I’m offended by white bread

        • .... February 14, 2016 at 5:53 am

          I’m offended by Native Americans. but I still watch Cowboys and Indians movie’s

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