A small fashion firm has secured a victory against high-street brand Zara over claims its branding was “identical” to the latter.
Zara, which is owned by the biggest fashion group in the world, Inditex, threatened to take legal action against Darlington-based boutique House of Zana.
Amber Kotrri, who launched House of Zana online in 2018 and opened her first physical store a year later, received a notice of opposition when she attempted to trademark the name.
This was followed by a letter from lawyers representing Zara saying her brand was “conceptually identical” to theirs and “confusingly similar” for customers.
She said she was urged to rename her business and remove all existing branding.
However, Kotrri refused to sign the agreement and said there was “no risk to confusing us with Zara”.
She also argued that rebranding her business would cause “irreparable damage”.
A tribunal judge has sided with the small business owner and ruled that House of Zana can keep its name.
Judge Matthew Williams said: “I am satisfied that the differences between the marks … are sufficient to rule out the likelihood of direct confusion on the part of the average consumer.
“I accept that the choice of name is prompted by Ms Kotrri’s Albanian heritage and the idea of clothes manufactured with the magical delicacy of fairies, and I find no cynical motive in the use of the name.
“Even for those who, based on their perception of the similar component, call to mind the word Zara, I am not satisfied that the mental link would be more than fleeting.”
In its letter to Kotrri, Zara had argued that there was a risk that “consumers will misread, mishear, mispronounce and/or otherwise perceive House of Zana as Zara”.
The retail giant also said that House of Zana “dilutes the distinctiveness and reputation of the Zara brand”.
But in April, Kotrri said that the name of the business, which comes from the Albanian word for “fairy”, is “very meaningful and personal to us and poses no commercial threat to Zara, and their massive market”.
Kotrri told the PA news agency: “I’m so pleased. It literally does feel like a weight being lifted off your shoulders.
“I really believed I would win – that’s why I fought it so hard – but in the last bits of the court hearing when they were saying that if I lost I’d have to pay their fees, little bits of doubt can creep into your mind in the middle of the night.
“But I was confident that surely anyone can see they’re not similar.”
Additional reporting by PA
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