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Navajo Blow the Whistle on Urban Outfitters

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CN) - The Navajo Nation claims Urban Outfitters violates its trademarks by selling "Navajo" and "Navaho" clothing and accessories, including a "derogatory and scandalous" flask.

The Navajo sued Urban Outfitters and its subsidiaries, Anthropologie, Free People, and all three companies' websites, in Federal Court.

The Navajo particularly object to defendants' so-called "Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask" and a "Navajo Hipster Panty."

The tribe says it "does not use the Navajo name and trademarks in conjunction with alcohol, or items with alcoholic connotations. Indeed, the Navajo Nation has long banned the sale, manufacture, possession, transport, delivery, and consumption of alcohol within its borders."

The Navajo claim that since March 2009, Urban Outfitters has sold more than 20 products online and in its stores using Navajo names and trademarks, and that this "conduct is designed to convey to consumers a false association or affiliation with the Navajo Nation, and to unfairly trade off of the fame, reputation, and goodwill of the Navajo Nation's name and trademarks."

The Navajo claim Urban Outfitters sold clothing, jewelry, shoes, handbags, hats, scarves, gloves, underwear and flasks using the names "Navajo" and "Navaho," which "evoke the Navajo Indian Tribe's tribal patterns, including geometric prints and designs fashioned to mimic and resemble Navajo Indian and Tribal patterns, prints, and designs."

The Navajo say they "demanded that Urban Outfitters cease and desist using the 'Navajo' trademark in connection with the sale of Urban Outfitters' retail goods." The tribe says Urban Outfitters removed the word "Navajo" from its products on its website, but "continued to sell its products in its retail stores under the 'Navajo' and 'Navaho' names and marks. Moreover, defendant also continued to use the word 'Navajo' on its sales receipts."

Urban Outfitters operates 372 stores in the United States, Europe, and Canada. It reported $2.3 billion in sales for fiscal year 2011.

The Navajo want Urban Outfitters and its brands enjoined from using the words "Navajo" and "Navaho" in marketing products, and treble damages for all profits generated by the marketing and retailing of defendants' "Navajo" products. The tribe alleges trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition, violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, and other claims.

The tribe is represented by Brian Lewis and Henry Howe of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.

The Diné Development Corp. and Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise are co-plaintiffs. The Navajo name for themselves is Diné (Dee-NAY.)

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