Casablanca finds itself at the centre of a legal battle
With its uniquely evocative Mediterranean energy, Casablanca is a name that has attracted and inspired a number of creatives over the years. This includes both Marseille-based ready-to-wear brand Maison Casablanca, founded in 1985 by Hélène Racine, and luxury label Casablanca, launched by Franco-Moroccan designer Charaf Tajer in 2018. And it is because of this shared nomenclature that the two companies are now embroiled in a legal battle that has seen the former accuse the latter of trademark infringement.
Born in Morocco, Racine took inspiration for the name of her womenswear brand from the iconic film, Casablanca, by Michael Curtiz, with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Designed and produced in Marseille, the mid-range label, which Racine owns through her company, Adrien, and runs with her son, Basile Baixe, made a name for itself over the years thanks to its arty, colourful prints, the quality of its materials and the wearability of its garments. The brand is sold through two stores in Marseille and it's e-commerce platform, boutiquecasablanca.com.
Over the last three years, with the rise of Tajer's label, which shows its collections in Paris under the same name, the Marseille-based company has suddenly found itself in an awkward position, not least because Tajer, tipped to be the next creative director of Kenzo, is currently right in the centre of the media spotlight. "This trademark infringement is an extreme impediment to our development, as it creates considerable confusion among our suppliers, partners and customers," Baixe told FashionNetwork.com.
"We have customers who, when they look for us, end up on our competitor's site or think that our boutique is connected to his label. It's a question of identity. It can't go on like this. We feel like we've been dispossessed of our brand, despite having been on the market for more than 30 years. It's a lifetime's work that's being trampled on," he continued.
In 2020, through its counsel, Patricia Bismuth, the Marseille-based company decided to file an application for the revocation of its competitor's trademark via the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), ultimately aiming to achieve the retraction of the posterior trademark.
"My clients registered their brand in France before Mr. Charaf Tajer's company. Certainly, the two brands' styles are different. But when you take over the trademark of a competitor, that's trademark infringement. The European proceedings have now concluded. As our opponent has presented no defence, the verdict will be given in a few weeks time," explained Bismuth, who specialises in intellectual property.
Contacted by FashionNetwork.com, Tajer's Parisian brand, the HQ of which is located in London, simply responded that "Casablanca Tennis Club has a legitimately registered trademark in France." Indeed, it is under this name that the Moroccan designer launched his line, before slimming it down to the simpler Casablanca. Having started out as a menswear label, his brand has since expanded into womenswear, gaining a reputation for eye-popping prints and fine fabrics.
A familiar face of Parisian nightlife for a number of years, having notably served as creative director of iconic venue Le Pompon, Tajer later co-founded the Pigalle label with Stéphane Ashpool. According to the designer, he chose the name Casablanca for his own brand because it's the city where his parents met, in a sewing workshop.
With regard to the litigation, his company believes that "the two brands are completely different, and these are false accusations." However, its Marseille-based competitor doesn't count on letting up anytime soon. In addition to the ongoing administrative proceedings with the EUIPO, the company has also launched a fully fledged legal battle, bringing the case before the Parisian courts in January, as a trademark infringement and unfair competition suit. The proceedings were initiated by Pierre Hoffman, who did not wish to comment on the case.
The aim is to assure the discontinuation of all usage of the Casablanca name and all its variations, including Casablanca Tennis Club, Casablanca Brand and Casablanca Paris, a name which is used on the brand's e-commerce site, casablancaparis.com, for example. The Marseille-based company is claiming for 200,000 euros in damages for trademark infringement and 75,000 euros for unfair competition.
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