Shein In Legal Hot Water With Victoria’s Secret-Backed Brand

Chinese fast-fashion giant Shein has found itself facing yet another copyright infringement lawsuit.

Lingerie and women’s wear brand For Love & Lemons filed suit against Shein on Jan. 22 on the grounds of copyright infringement, per documents from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

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“Shein has been sued many times for marketing and selling infringing products, and this appears to be another such case,” Scott Alan Burroughs of Doniger/Burroughs, the firm representing For Love & Lemons, told Sourcing Journal.

For Love & Lemons claimed that Shein “continuously and repeatedly violated” the California-based company’s rights by marketing and selling products “bearing designs, prints, graphics, shapes and other original artwork that are identical or substantially similar to Love and Lemons’ copyrighted designs.” The brand is seeking injunctive relief from Shein, along with its trademark owner, Roadget Business Pte. Ltd., its parent company, Zoetop Business Co., Emory Rose, a brand sold on Shein’s e-commerce website and 10 DOE defendants—aka, fictitious defendants or pseudonyms used when a plaintiff’s identity is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.

For Love & Lemons reportedly served a cease-and-desist demand to the giant before filing the lawsuit, and Shein “failed to meaningfully respond” or resolve the issue, according to the suit.

The lawsuit is centered around designs created by print studio Liz Casella for For Love & Lemons, exclusively, to sell. Upon posting those designs on its website for purchase, the Victoria’s Secret-backed brand alleged that Zoetop, Shein, Roadget and the DOE defendants created and profited from designs “substantially similar” to Casella’s. The infringing products include, but are not limited to, the garments sold by Shein that were manufactured or otherwise distributed by Shein/Roadget.

Adding insult to injury, For Love & Lemons claims that Shein and its fellow defendants continued selling goods resembling the copyrighted designs even after receiving notice from For Love & Lemons to knock it off.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.

The first claim for relief sees For Love & Lemons stating that it believes that every defendant, including Shein’s in-house “cottagecore” brand Emory Rose, had access “without limitation” to its showroom, design library and illegally distributed copies of its Casella designs via third-party vendors and/or the DOE defendants.

Moreover, For Love & Lemons alleged that Shein had access to its samples—potentially from printing mills—and garments manufactured with the lawfully printed Casella-design bearing fabrics in the marketplace. While that access isn’t illegal, “one element of a copyright claim is establishing that an infringer had the opportunity to access the design at issue,” according to Burroughs. He also clarified that there are no allegations that For Love & Lemons’ manufacturers are involved.

“[For Love & Lemons] is informed and believes and thereon alleges that one or more of the defendants manufacture garments and/or is a garment vendor,” the lawsuit reads.

Furthermore, For Love & Lemons alleged that each defendant, including Zoetop and Shein/Roadget, has an ongoing business relationship with retailers, willfully supplying them with infringed or illegally modified garments featuring Casella’s designs.

For Love & Lemons has “suffered damages in an amount to be established at trial,” and the lawsuit asserts that each defendant is liable for statutory damages under Section 504(2) of the Copyright Act in the sum of up to $150,000 per infringement.

The second claim for relief states that the defendants “knowingly induced, participated in, aided and abetted and profited from the illegal reproduction and/or subsequent sales of garments featuring the [Casella designs].” The lawsuit then directly calls out Zoetop, stating the parent company is responsible for the Shein/Roadget’s allegedly infringing conduct and vice versa.

For Love & Lemons alleged that each of the defendants is “vicariously liable for the infringement alleged herein of one another because they had the right and ability to supervise the infringing conduct and because they had a direct financial interest in the infringing conduct,” per the lawsuit.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.

The third claim for relief argues that the designs in question were routinely published with attribution, credit and other copyright management information identifying For Love & Lemons as the owner. The defendants, including Shein, removed these details and added “false” copyright management information and metadata before distributing and publishing to the public—something Shein has been sued for in over 30 separate actions in the Central District of California, including suits from large brands as well as small designers.

For Love & Lemons is demanding a jury trial under the 7th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is the right to have a jury trial in federal courts with civil cases where the claim exceeds a certain dollar value.

Late last month, Uniqlo filed suit against Shein and three of its operators, including Roadget, for violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Act via the sale of a purse copied from Uniqlo. Another fast-fashion rival, H&M, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit last July against Shein for allegedly stealing designs.

Last July saw the filing of a 52-page complaint by plaintiffs Krista Perry, Jay Barron and Larissa Martinez against Shein for “egregious” copyright infringement on Martinez’s Los Angeles-based company designing and producing made-to-order clothing that “constituted racketeering.”

For Love & Lemons did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.

Shein told Souring Journal it has “no comment” on the matter.