March 18, 2019
Kiini, a swimwear brand specializing in brightly-coloured, crocheted bikinis, was met with a great deal of success after its launch in 2013 by Turkish-born but New York-based Ipek Irgit. As reported by the New York Times, Kiini had reeled in approximately $9 million in sales by 2015.
Kiini’s success has prompted a market for ‘faux-Kiinis’ – most notably in the 2015 lineup of the well-known Victoria’s Secret. Ms. Irgit had her lawyers file a federal lawsuit in the central district of California, accusing Victoria’s Secret of copyright infringement and calling on the company to stop selling the swimwear and pay damages. The lawsuit ended in March 2017 with Kiini and Victoria’s Secret agreeing to a confidential settlement.
The following year, Kiini filed another federal lawsuit – this time against Neiman Marcus and two other swimwear companies in the Southern District of New York. According to the New York Times, Kiini accused the companies of unfair competition, misleading consumers, and violating Kiini’s “trade dress”. The lawsuit would later be amended to add PilyQ, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s, among others, as defendants.
Ironically, the litigiousness of a new, start-up company wound up attracting the wrong kind of attention for Ms. Irgit. Maria Solange Ferrarini of Brazil launched her own lawsuit against Kiini and Ms. Irgit for unfair business practices, alleging Ms. Irgit bought a bikini of the same style from her, took it back to America, copyrighted it, and created a multi-million dollar enterprise by selling it and opposing anyone who dared to mimic it.
Shortly thereafter, Ms. Irgit withdrew her case against Neiman Marcus et al. As for the case in which Kiini and Ms. Irgit are defendants, it has been transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and a decision on the merits awaits.
Authors: Sarah Stothart and Anna Condon