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Victoria’s Secret Sex-Appeal Hurt Shirt Brand, Judge Says

July 31 (Bloomberg) -- Victoria’s Secret lost a trademark dispute with a chain of shirt stores when a London judge said the lingerie brand’s “Pink” clothing line could confuse customers with its “sexy, mass-market appeal.”

L Brands Inc.’s Victoria’s Secret infringed trademark rights owned by London-based Thomas Pink Ltd., Judge Colin Birss said in a written decision. He said customers in Europe might associate the traditional shirtmaker with underwear, which would cause a “detriment to the repute” of its brand.

“For example consumers are likely to enter one of the claimant’s shops looking for lingerie and be surprised and disappointed when they find they have made a mistake,” Birss said. L Brands fell as much as 1.4 percent in New York.

Trademark disputes often come down to whether a judge thinks people are likely to mix up two similar brands. Birss has previously ruled that Kraft Foods Group Inc.’s Cadbury had sole rights to a distinctive shade of purple, and that Samsung Electronics Co. tablets couldn’t be confused with Apple Inc.’s iPad because they were “not as cool.”

“We are delighted with the outcome of this case, and will continue to protect the considerable investment that has been made into building Thomas Pink into a leading luxury clothing brand,” Jonathan Heilbron, the company’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. Spokesmen for Columbus, Ohio-based L Brands didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment outside of normal office hours.

London Store

Thomas Pink, which operates a flagship store in London, said Victoria’s Secret use of the word Pink was too similar.

Victoria’s Secret launched the clothing line aimed at “college girls” in 2004, including t-shirts, swimsuits and lingerie, according to the ruling.

The lingerie company said in a London trial that its brand was famous, and that its customers were young women, not the older professionals who might buy shirts and ties from Thomas Pink.

L Brands is seeking growth at Victoria’s Secret, its biggest division, by expanding into new products including sports clothes and jeans. The company said its net sales rose seven percent year-on-year to $1.18 billion in the five weeks ending July 6.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Chapman at pchapman10@bloomberg.net Robert Valpuesta

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