The blogger behind the satirical site WTForever21, whose particular brand of sass we have known and appreciated for some time, has been hit with a cease-and-desist from the California-based clothier. If Rachel Kane doesn't delete her site — Forever 21's latest deadline is June 10 — the company says it will file a lawsuit against her.
Forever 21's threatening letter, a copy of which I obtained from Kane, accuses WTForever21 of "trademark infringement, copyright infringement, unfair competition and dilution" of the Forever 21 brand. Forever 21's in-house counsel, Jerry Noh, wrote that while Forever 21 appreciates Kane's "indicated patronage" of the store, her "website's name refers to an abbreviation for colloquial expression that the general public may find offensive, and such colloquial expression is being used in conjunction with our Company's name, registered trademark, and domain name." The idea that a reader might mistake WTForever21.com for Forever 21's own homepage is ludicrous, but clearly this isn't a fair legal fight. Forever 21 has the resources to make any court case unpleasant and protracted. Forever 21 has spread around the world (and made its owners, Do Won Chang and Jin Sook, extroardinarily wealthy) amid concerns over labor violations and many instances of Forever 21's theft of other designers' intellectual property. (The company has settled numerous lawsuits stemming from its copyright violations; a documentary, Made in L.A., covers one of the company's legal tussles with its workers, to whom it paid illegally low wages. In January, a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek visited a Los Angeles area sweat shop and found garment workers sewing Forever 21 vests for twelve cents apiece. If a worker finished 66 vests in an hour, she would make minimum wage.) You can read Forever 21's very sternly worded cease and desist letter to Kane in full; click to enlarge.
WTForever 21 pokes fun at Forever 21 for making ugly clothes. It often does this by making references to pop culture; a ram's head ring is like the horse head scene in The Godfather, a post about a sweater that looks like it is "made of muppet parts" is "brought to you by the letters W, T, and F," courtesy of Sesame Street screengrabs, a tiny purse becomes "The Tiny Purse for Women Who Can't Carry Things Good (and Who Wanna to Learn to Carry Other things, too)." It's pretty funny! Kane rails against inexplicable feathered accessories ("oversized cat toys"), anything lamé ("it's spelled that way for a reason"), and jumpsuits ("If you bought this, sort your life out, IMMEDIATELY"). She also points out errors in Forever 21's own poorly edited copy. ("Constructed from different color fabrications this dress is sure to show off your curves in this form fitting dress.") Occasionally, she likes stuff, too. Almost nobody enjoys being made fun of, but Forever 21 is an corporate entity and as such attracts public commentary — and parodies (even parodies of trademarks) are, as a rule, protected speech.
This seems like a textbook example of a SLAPP, a lawsuit or legal threat that is intended not to win a claim, but to silence a critic. Sadly, it's working: Kane says she's probably going to take her site down by the June 10th deadline. "Unless I can work something out with Forever 21, June 10 will be the last day for WTForever21.com," she wrote in an email, adding, "I'm so disheartened by this."
Forever 21: 1. Free speech: 0. WTF, Forever 21?
Update: The blogger decides to fight back.
WTForever21 [Official Site]