As Illinois trade secrets litigation attorneys, we were interested to see a trade secrets lawsuit arise out of the time-sensitive and competitive world of women’s fashion. As the Naples Daily News reported in July, Florida clothing company Chico’s FAS Inc. has sued competitor Cache Inc. and two former employees who moved to Cache, Rabia Farhang and Christine Board. Chico’s alleges that Farhang and Board shared designs from Chico’s White House/Black Market line with Cache, resulting in nearly identical spring and summer collections from the two brands. The lawsuit’s complaint includes exhibits of pictures of both collections. It accuses the women of breach of their nondisclosure agreements and legal duties, and Cache of inducing them to breach those agreements, and all defendants of tortious interference with contractual relations, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, theft, unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy.
According to the complaint in the case (PDF), which was filed in New York state court, Cache has not been financially successful in the past four or five years, during which time Chico’s White House/Black Market line has done well. Chico’s alleges that Cache tried to fix this by inducing Farhang and Board to leave Chico’s in the fall of 2009, taking their knowledge of design plans for 2010 clothing lines along with other trade secrets and confidential information. At Chico’s, Farhang and Board both participated in the designs of the 2010 lines, Farhang as a senior officer. Using the allegedly stolen designs, the complaint says, Cache saw an increase in sales in spring of 2010, and Chico’s alleges that Cache will use stolen designs in its fall line as well. Because of this, it requested preliminary and permanent injunctions stopping Cache from selling clothes from its spring, summer and fall lines, as well as a recall of the spring and summer lines. It also asked for financial damages and court orders protecting its trade secrets and confidential information.
Our Chicago business emergency lawyers believe this case is a good example of a situation in which swift action is necessary. If the allegations by Chico’s are true, its intellectual property and brand have already been somewhat diluted by Cache’s use of very similar designs in its spring and summer lines. This would be ongoing damage to the company that includes difficult-to-measure non-financial harm to its identity and customer loyalty, as well as actual financial damages from infringement. Furthermore, the tight schedules of fashion and retail companies mean that they bring out their fall lines in mid-summer, which means the court must take quick action on the July 29 lawsuit to stop the infringing on the fall line. This also means that Cache’s fiscal health could be in serious trouble if the count chooses to grant the injunction against the fall line and the recall order for the spring and summer lines. For both sides, this claim represents a legal emergency requiring quick action to protect their business.