BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

Choo Versus Chu: Jimmy Choo Takes Trademark Action Against Fashion Student

Central Saint Martins student Jerry Chu caught the brands attention when he registered his name in China. But such a dispute is far from unusual in fashion.
Jerry Chu's designs | Source: Eugene Angelo
  • Chantal Fernandez

NEW YORK, United States — Jimmy Choo is taking a preemptive strike at some potential competition.

Xianjie Zhu, a 19-year-old from Guangdong Province in China, goes by Jerry Chu at Central Saint Martins, where he’s a fashion student specialising in menswear. Last year, at the recommendation of his father, he applied to register his English name in Beijing in case he decided to use it to start a clothing line in the future. With two years left of school, Chu had not yet given starting a line any serious thought, he said.

On Tuesday, the footwear and accessories brand Jimmy Choo filed a request to invalidate Chu’s trademark, arguing that the similarities between the names Jimmy Choo and Jerry Chu would cause confusion in the market. The company cited previous trademarks it has successfully invalidated, for trademarks including Jenny Choo and Ray Choo.

A representative for Jimmy Choo declined to comment.

Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University's School of Law, said these disputes are common — so much so that she always urges young designers not to name their businesses after themselves.

“Designers with common names in particular often have to engage in protracted legal disputes with companies who already own the same or similar names,” she said.

But fashion consumers today are accustomed to distinguishing between namesake labels with similar names, such as Alexander Wang and Vera Wang, said Scafidi, and there is hope for independent designers.

Last month, Thaddeus O'Neil, the surf-inspired menswear label, reached a settlement with surfwear brand O'Neill after more than four years of legal disputes between the two companies, said Scafidi. (Thaddeus O'Neil gained legal advice from Scafidi's Fashion Law Institute.)

Scafidi explained that a significant difference between those disputes and Jerry Chu’s situation is that in the US, trademarks must be used in commerce in order to be valid. Having an active business can also help demonstrate that a brand with a similar name is not producing similar products or “trademark squatting” in order to get a payout from a larger brand. Brands with global name recognition like Jimmy Choo are especially vigilant about trademark protection.

“Jimmy Choo may well have assumed that the Jerry Chu registration was just another attempt to trade on the established Jimmy Choo name, since soundalike registrations are a particular problem in countries like China, whose primary writing system uses characters rather than letters,” said Scafidi.

Chu and his lawyers will wait to see what the trademark committee decides, he said, hoping that the situation can be resolved quickly.

The student posted the legal papers on Instagram this week, catching the attention of fashion’s social media watch dogs, Diet Prada, who echoed his frustration and spread the word.

“I’m surprised so many people would care about me, an independent designer, a student,” he said.

Related Articles:

© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

More from News & Analysis
Fashion News, Analysis and Business Intelligence from the leading digital authority on the global fashion industry.

Join us for our next #BoFLIVE on Thursday, February 16 at 15:00 GMT / 10:00 EST, based on our latest case Study How to Build a Profitable DTC Brand. BoF’s deputy editor Brian Baskin along with DTC correspondent Malique Morris and chief marketing officer of UK-based beauty brand Trinny London, Shira Feuer explore blueprints for growing a profitable brand.

The 10 themes in The State of Fashion 2023, the authoritative annual report from The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company, highlight how businesses can deploy realistic yet bold strategies to drive growth, even amid challenging times.

view more

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
BoF Professional Summit - An Inflection Point in Fashion Tech
© 2023 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Accessibility Statement.
BoF Professional Summit - An Inflection Point in Fashion Tech