WME-IMG and CFDA Facing $10M Lawsuit for "Usurping" New York Fashion Week Trademark

Fall 2016 during New York Fashion Week-Trisha Paravas inset -H 2016
JP Yim/Getty Images; Fashion Week Inc.

WME-IMG may host a week of fashion-related events happening in New York, but calling it "New York Fashion Week" is trademark infringement, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

Trisha Paravas claims she owns that trademark and is suing WME-IMG and the Council of Fashion Designers of America for at least $10 million in damages.

Paravas says she founded Fashion Week Inc. to produce fashion shows for consumers after realizing the current slate of fashion shows were invitation-only and designed for industry professionals and media. Her bi-yearly shows launched in December 2013 and were initially called "New York Fashion Shows." After her first few shows drew increasing interest, she decided it was time to rebrand.

"Ms. Paravas who was a savvy business executive with an MBA in business and marketing realized she had a hit concept on her hands," states the complaint. "However, she realized that she needed to change the name of her company and her branding as both were clunky."

At the time, Paravas claims there was no trademark filed for "New York Fashion Week," so she snatched it up, along with the abbreviation "NYFW."

By the end of 2015, her shows were turning a profit and drawing dozens of corporate sponsors including Ritz-Carlton, JP Morgan Chase and Dr. Pepper, Paravas claims. 

That's around the same time Mercedes-Benz dropped its name sponsorship of the fashion week organized by WME-IMG and CFDA. That event rebranded as "New York Fashion Week," which much of the industry had been informally calling it since the early 2000s. (The event itself dates back to 1943.)  

Paravas says their conflicting mark and the resulting dispute has caused her to lose designers and sponsors. She's suing for trademark dilution, unfair competition and trademark infringement and is seeking punitive damages and a permanent injunction.

U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl denied Paravas' request for a temporary restraining order and set a hearing on her motion for a preliminary injunction for Aug. 4.

An IMG spokeswoman declined to comment on pending litigation.