Business

Retail clothing giant ends five-year trademark battle with Whatcom’s Nautigirl

Nautigirl products on display at Bay to Baker Trading Company in Fairhaven.
Nautigirl products on display at Bay to Baker Trading Company in Fairhaven. The Bellingham Herald file

In a battle of David vs. Goliath, the fight is finally over and a Whatcom County retailer can keep its name and logo.

Christine Palmerton, who owns the Nautigirl brand, announced on Facebook that she has reached an agreement with clothing giant Nautica, which won’t pursue further litigation. Palmerton will keep using the Nautigirl name, ending a trademark dispute that lasted more than five years.

Nautigirl sells boating-themed apparel and gifts, including shirts, jackets, mugs and wine glasses, on its website and at boat shows. The products are sold locally at the Bay to Baker Trading Co. in Fairhaven and the Roche Harbor Sports Wear boutique.

Nautica sells men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, as well as home products, watches and fragrances, according to its website. It has more than $1.2 billion in annual sales, according to an article on the website RetailDive.com.

The dispute was whether Palmerton’s company logo and name, Nautigirl Brands LLC, was too similar to Nautica Apparel despite Nautigirl having a legal trademark.

In October 2015, Palmerton was successful in convincing the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the two brands were not similar, allowing her to keep her trademark.

nautigirl2
The Nautica logo on the left and the Nautigirl logo on the right. Nautica has ended a legal battle with Bellingham-based Nautigirl over a trademark. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

Nautica, however, was not done taking legal action. The retail giant filed a civil case in October 2017 to collect financial damages. That case was working its way through the court when something significant happened this past spring, Palmerton said: Nautica was sold by VF Capital to Authentic Brands.

“The new owners have a different philosophy when it comes to trademarks,” Palmerton said, noting that over the summer and fall they were able to reach an amicable agreement. “I’m elated the new owners stepped in to make this right.”

Palmerton said she couldn’t go into details about the agreement, except to say no money has changed hands. Attempts to reach a Nautica spokesperson involved in the case for comment were unsuccessful.

‘She has been such a warrior’

Palmerton’s attorney, Eve Brown, said the resolution means Palmerton can focus on her real passion of “empowering women and growing her inspiring brand.”

“She has been such a warrior throughout this process, and seeing her thrive makes everything we went through worth it,” Brown said in an email. “We are so happy that Nautica Apparel’s new management has been fair and reasonable.”

Palmerton wasn’t sure whether her company could survive when she was served with court papers on Halloween in 2017. Nautica was asking for financial damages worth three times Nautigirl’s profits or three times Nautica damages.

When attorneys representing Nautica contacted Palmerton to say they were no longer interested in litigating the case, Palmerton was relieved.

“It’s all bittersweet. I’ll never get those six years back, but I hung in there for a good resolution,” Palmerton said.

Palmerton can focus on growing her business again, but unfortunately she is not done dealing with trademarks.

After years of defending her trademark, she now has to protect it from other companies that have been using very similar names/logos as well.

“Now I can go after legitimate claims,” Palmerton said.

She’s optimistic about Nautigirl.

She’s doubling her booth space at January’s Seattle Boat Show and is looking at some opportunities with national retailers to carry her products. Palmerton said she’s also getting more interest from potential investors.

“I’m now starting from square one, but it is such a relief,” Palmerton said.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz
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