Russian clothing brand loses US court battle

A US court has ruled a popular Russian clothing brand violates the copyright of an existing American label. The case is on its way to an appeals court in California on Monday.

America – land of freedom, opportunity, and an open market for new fashion.

Apparently not for 17-year-old Kira Plastinina, daughter of dairy and juice magnate Sergey Plastinin.

The young Russian entrepreneur was taken to court in the US by Pacific Sunwear of California. The retailer filed for copyright protection for its guys wear, Kirra, brand – saying it could easily be confused with Kira Plastinina. Pacific Sunware won the case.

Plastinina expressed surprise at the result, saying “It's hard to understand how it can even be possible to make someone not to be allowed to use their own name….All creative people – artists, writers, poets – they all sign what they do with their name,” and adding “I don't want to think of the reasons why I am being targeted; I just want my name back.”

It's a name that's been popping up around Russian malls for over two years now.   How much the brand is worth has not been disclosed, but marketing representatives say research on the matter is currently underway.

In Russia, advocates of the country's accession to the World Trade Organization have been quick to suggest that Russian businesses are at a legal disadvantage as long as it remains a non-member.

International attorneys, like Daniel Klein of Hellevig, Klein and Usov in Moscow, see the issue a matter of brand recognition.

“The key question is how well-known is this brand Kirra which is owned by Pacific Sunwear. The fact that they have some 900 stores in the United States may seem to indicate that it is well-known."

Kira Plastinina entered the US market in the spring of 2008. But while stores in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan have kept their doors open, the American operation actually filed for bankruptcy late last year – listing $9.7 million in assets and nearly $55 million in debt.

But the enthusiasm being put into the Kira brand’s appeal of the verdict could just mean a financial makeover plan is in the works.