T-Shirt Design Highlights Copyright and Trademark Issues Related to Clothing

Elektra Gorski began producing t-shirts featuring the wordplay slogan “Lettuce Turnip The Beet” in 2011. Three years later, Gymboree began producing and selling its own version of the t-shirt. Gorski sued them for copyright and trademark infringement and Gymboree tried to get the case dismissed.

Gymboree argued that Gorski failed to identify protectable elements in the T-shirt, which the court partially agreed with, stating that “[s]hort phrases, no matter how distinctively arranged, are not protectable elements.” None of the similarities elements between the t-shirts were protectable, since the similarities were in the phrase itself. Although Gorski was able to get copyright protection for her actual t-shirt design (which Gymboree did not copy), she couldn’t get trademark protection for the phrase, which was the element used by Gymboree.

Click here to read the Court’s Order and to see pictures of the t-shirt designs.