Ivanka Trump and her clothing brand are entangled in an intellectual property battle in which she wants no part. Fashion designer Edgardo Osorio, co-founder and creative director of fashion brand Aquazzura, has taken legal action against Trump for allegedly copying the design of his iconic “Wild Thing” sandal that catapulted his brand to international success.
Instead of facing the lawsuit, however, Trump has shielded herself behind her official White House title.
According to a Bloomberg report, when Osorio first noticed that a number of labels had copied his design, his brand filed multiple lawsuits, mainly targeting larger brands like Marc Fisher and Steve Madden. One of the other companies on his list was Trump’s which was selling his $785 shoe for only $65.
Aquazurra called out Trump on its Instagram account, writing that copyrighted design theft was “one of the most disturbing things in the fashion industry.”
The Ivanka Trump brand reportedly ignored a subsequent cease-and-desist letter issued by Aquazzura requiring Trump’s label to destroy existing pairs of the shoe in question, in addition to halting any advertising for it, and to hand over any profits earned from its sale. When Trump’s brand reportedly refused to comply, Aquazurra filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court, accusing Trump’s brand of infringement, deceptive trade practices, and unfair competition.
The letter argued that Trump’s brand was “seeking the same success Aquazzurra experienced but without having to put in the hard creative work.” According to Bloomberg, lawyers for Ivanka Trump’s brand are currently in settlement talks with Aquazzura.
At the time Aquazzura started taking legal action against Ivanka Trump, she had not yet taken a position in the White House. Since then, the first daughter has taken on an advisory position in her father’s administration, making trips abroad and meeting with foreign officials in high profile settings.
Although the dispute is being settled outside of the courtroom, this still poses a problem for Trump, who appears eager to sidestep the controversy in any way possible — including by hiding behind her duties in the White House. If it goes to court — which is set to occur in March next year, should the two parties find themselves unable to reach a settlement — things could get even worse for the first daughter.
“The burden of a deposition of Ms. Trump would far outweigh any likely benefit to Aquazzura,” company lawyer Darren Saunders argued in a letter to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest. Saunders added that Trump’s role as a “high ranking government official” should excuse her from having to submit a deposition, according to Bloomberg.
Unfortunately for Trump, she may end up having to testify anyway. In response to Saunders’ letter, Forrest stated that Trump could not avoid a deposition, as “she is alleged to have personal involvement in the events at issue in this lawsuit.”
While Trump has stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the company, she still retains ownership, and according to The Washington Post, representatives from the company have said she has the power to veto any new deals.
Trump herself has been ducking behind her White House job to avoid legal responsibilities tied to her brand for some time now. Over the summer, three Chinese activists were arrested for attempting to expose the labor conditions at a Trump-linked factory that manufactured most of Ivanka Trump’s line. The group for which the activists worked, China Labor Watch, issued a report on the factory and alleged that the employees were forced to work 12-hour days, at least six days a week, at a monthly salary of about 2,500 yuan, or $365. The workers had been given no safety training, even though many came into contact with hot oils and glues regularly.
In Bangladesh, where many of the Ivanka Trump branded denim is manufactured, garment workers similarly earned a minimum wage of about $70 a month, according to the Washington Post.
Trump utilized her position in the White House to avoid speaking out about those conditions and related controversies. Jamie Gorelick, her attorney, told the Post that Trump, because of her role in the White House, “has been advised that she cannot ask the government to act in an issue involving the brand in any way, constraining her ability to intervene personally.”
Meanwhile, Ivanka has worn pieces of her own line to help promote her personal brand of #WomenWhoWork and has championed herself as an advocate for working women across the globe.