New Jersey residents may be surprised to learn that the U.S. military holds a wide variety of valuable intellectual property ranging from logos and names to camouflage designs. The U.S. Army, Navy Air Force and Marine Corps earn millions each year from licensing their trademarks and copyrights, and they also all have attorneys on staff tasked with clamping down on infringement. Legal experts believe that a T-shirt offered by the California-based fashion retailer Forever 21 could draw the ire of some of these lawyers as it appears to be a near identical copy of the Army’s standard-issue training shirt.
The Army’s trademarks include its iconic star logo and the word ‘Army” when it is used on men’s’, women’s or children’s clothing, and Army attorneys have been quick to send out cease and desist letters in the past when protected military logos and branding have been used without consent. Forever 21, which has faced several intellectual property infringement complaints in the past, has removed the T-shirt from its website, but reports indicate that other possibly infringing articles remain.
Americans tend to rally behind the military in times of war, and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen the value of military trademarks and copyrights soar in recent years. The Marine Corps alone have collected about $5.4 million in intellectual property licensing fees since 2009. In 2013, $700,000 of this money was placed in a fund dedicated to improving morale. Forever 21 and the Army did not immediately respond to reports of possible trademark infringement.
Pursuing intellectual property litigation is often expensive and a successful outcome cannot be guaranteed, but allowing infringement to go unanswered can devalue brand names and encourage further unauthorized use. Attorneys with experience in this area may react to trademark or copyright infringement quickly, but they could also seek to avoid protracted legal battles whenever possible.