While you may have been quick to wipe 2020 from your memory, Virgil Abloh doesn’t forgive and forget. You might recall his label, Off-White, sued Afters Ice Cream last November after the ice cream chain debuted merchandise riffing off Abloh’s designs. Now, the Southern California-based Afters is claiming it can’t be sued for copyright infringement under a parody defense, and the case should be dropped altogether.
Off-White isn’t the only brand Afters has parodied through its merch, though it is the only one to take the chain to court. Afters has taken similar light-hearted jabs at other popular labels, from Anti Social Social Club to Kanye West’s Sunday Service, complete with “Anti Diet Diet Club” and “Ice Cream is King” taglines. It’s all in good fun, right?
A melting defense — As The Fashion Law reports, Off-White claims that Afters’ array of offerings, particularly T-shirts, sweatshirts, and decorative store elements, make use of Off-White’s diagonal stripe motifs and other aspects of the streetwear brand’s trademarks. But in a cold rebuttal, the ice cream chain denies “any infringement of any valid trademark owned by [Off-White] or any involvement in any alleged infringement of any valid trademark owned by [Off-White].” Instead, Afters claims it should be shielded from liability on parody grounds.
Technically, parody could be a relevant argument against Off-White here. If you look closely at Afters’ merch, you’ll notice the chain added additional elements to signature Off-White branding, making the offerings unique to Afters.
Afters also contends that even if it did infringe Off-White’s trademarks, Off-White “has not been injured or damaged as a proximate result of any act or omission for which [Afters] is responsible.” If anything, the brand was damaged by its own hypocrisy. Abloh has been accused of stealing from lesser-known designers on multiple occasions, and Off-White itself has copied logos from the University of Nebraska, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Helly Hansen, the latter of which sued Abloh's brand. Now, it’s strange to see Abloh on the other side of the fair-use debate.
Bloody sundae — It seems like Afters can taste the hypocrisy too. Coming to its own sweet conclusion, the ice cream chain has demanded that the case be dismissed. In its opinion, the chain raised so many possible defenses against Off-White’s claim that it’s now rendered baseless. In fact, Afters even noted that had Off-White policed its brand better, the chain wouldn’t have made the merch in the first place. Damn. That got to leave a bad taste in Abloh’s mouth.