US pop sensation Katy Perry referred to an Australian fashion designer in a “derogatory term” and told her manager “not to soften up or apologise” in emails over the use of trademarks in Australia, a court has heard.
Sydney-based designer Katie Jane Taylor is suing the I Kissed A Girl singer in the Federal Court over the sale of clothes in Australia and what she claims is trademark infringement.
Ms Taylor, a mother of two, has operated a clothing label under her birth name Katie Perry since 2006 and held the trademark in Australia for over a decade.
However, the Sydney designer is now suing the singer – whose real name is Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson – in the Federal Court, claiming she infringed her trademark by using one that was “substantially identical to, or deceptively similar”.
Camera IconSydney-based designer Katie Jane Taylor is suing the I Kissed A Girl singer in the Federal Court over the sale of clothes in Australia and what she claims is trademark infringement. Rohan Kelly Credit: News Corp Australia
Ms Taylor claims the singer was using the trademark in Australia since at least 2013, selling products not only at her concerts, but also at shops such as Myer and Target.
During the first day of hearing on Monday, Barrister Christian Dimitriadis SC told the court Ms Taylor had been designing clothes in Australia for almost 15 years.
“That isn’t easy in Australia … the name of her label is Katie Perry, which is her birth name and she has traded since 2007,” Mr Dimitriadis said.
He told the court the designer began her business “well before” she knew who the singer was, and first heard Perry’s song on the radio in 2008.
Mr Dimitriadis said there was “no room for doubt” Perry had infringed Ms Taylor’s “exclusive rights”.
“Ms Taylor is the rightful owner of her trademark in respect of clothes in Australia,” he told the court.
He said his client had resisted “heavy handed threats of litigation” in 2009 in the form of cease and desist letters which were sent to the budding designer.
Ms Taylor first began designing clothes in November 2007 when they were launched at a school charity event, then sold them at Sydney markets in May 2008. She had already registered her business and domain name “Katie Perry” in 2007.
It wasn’t until later that year Ms Taylor first heard I Kissed a Girl on the radio and proceeded to purchase the song on iTunes because of the similar name, the court heard.
“Ms Taylor was aware she was a musical based US artist, but had nothing to do with clothes,” Mr Dimitriadis said.
Perry’s lawyers filed the cease and desist letters against Ms Taylor in 2009, which was a major “shock” to the designer.
“Ms Hudson and her advisers attempted to use their greater sophistication and financial might to snuff out Ms Taylor‘s business,” he said.
“It caused Ms Taylor significant distress and it was a shock; she tried to seek legal assistance but she couldn’t afford it.”
In 2009 Ms Taylor went public with the legal battle in the form of a video message to the superstar on YouTube which prompted an email from Perry’s manager, Steven Jensen, to say the situation was “blown way out of proportion”.
Mr Dimitriadis read a response email to the court from Perry, who told her manager “not to soften up or apologise”.
“She referred to Ms Taylor in a derogatory way in that email that I won’t repeat,” he told the court.
Camera IconMs Taylor posted a YouTube video in 2009 asking Katy Perry to let her continue her fashion business. Credit: Supplied
Ms Taylor did not concede and was not prepared to hand over the rights to her name after the lawyers attempted to negotiate “co-existence”.
Lawyers for the singer threatened to sue the Australian designer, which would have put her out of business, the court heard.
Mr Dimitriadis told the court Perry was a dedicated businesswoman who was involved in “control over her business empire”.
The singer sold branded clothing and merchandise during two nationwide tours in 2014 and 2018, as well as at Target and Myer from 2014 – 2016.
Perry’s lawyers claim the singer did not infringe Ms Taylor’s trademark because she “used her own name in good faith”.
They claim the singer took on the name Katy Perry in 2002 in an attempt not to be confused with Hollywood actress Kate Hudson.
Ms Taylor launched litigation proceedings in October 2019 and is expected to give evidence on Tuesday during the hearing, which will last for about five days.
She established her fashion label in 2007 to meet the need for womenswear that mixes style with comfort.
Up until October 2019, Ms Taylor never thought to fight the superstar, as she did not have the financial resources to take on Perry, but with the support of Litigation Capital Management, she has the funding to take action.
“This is a real David and Goliath fight,” Ms Taylor said in a statement.
“The singer has ignored my trademark and continued to sell infringing goods unlawfully in Australia.
“I am fighting not just for myself, but for all small businesses in this country who can be bullied by these overseas entities who have much more financial power than we do.”
The hearing will continue on Tuesday.Internet Explorer Channel Network