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The Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters in 2012 for using the word "Navajo" to describe a line of merchandise. The suit is still ongoing.

Navajo Nation Suit Against Urban Outfitters Ongoing; 'Navajo' Is Not a 'Generic Term,' Diné Argue

Gabriela Maya Bernadett
2/9/16

In 2012, the Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters, Inc. for alleged violations of federal and state trademarks. Four years later, the case has yet to be settled.

On February 3, the retail chain asked a federal judge in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to limit how far back in time the tribe can go to seek money from the company’s products. The judge has not issued an immediate ruling.

The controversy made headlines back in 2011 when the retail chain advertised such items as the “Navajo hipster panty” and “Navajo print fabric wrapped flask.” After a significant media backlash and a cease and desist letter from the Navajo Nation, the company removed the “Navajo” name from its website.

The Navajo Nation, however, contends in its lawsuit that products with the Navajo name are still being sold through other company brands, like Free People, in catalogues and retail stores. The company never asked the tribe for permission to use its name.

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Millions of dollars are potentially at stake in the suit. The tribe is seeking revenue from products using the “Navajo” name starting from 2008. Urban Outfitters, however, counters that the term “Navajo” is a generic term for a style or design, and that the tribe took too long to file suit. The company wants a judge to not only determine that it hasn’t infringed upon the tribe’s rights but to also cancel the tribe’s federal trademark registrations.

Diné [Navajo] tribal member Casey John disagrees with the argument that “Navajo” is a generic term. “Using Navajo to describe something is further colonizing the word. Using it to refer to a type of pattern … it’s not really a pattern,” she says. “To say it’s just a design, they don’t need permission from a tribe that federally, legally calls themselves Navajo … it’s just ridiculous. It’s legally the name we use in any kind of actions with other nations, the government. It [the name] should not be taken lightly at all.”

The retail company is no stranger to racially charged controversies. In 2005, it faced backlash for selling a T-shirt with the phrase “New Mexico: Cleaner than regular Mexico,” and again in 2010 for describing a T-shirt color as “Obama/Black.”

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tmsyr11's picture
tmsyr11
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
If this article is "truthful", then the writer should be saying something more of the "Navajo" Trucking Company, Denver, CO-based, that travels all over the country, i.e. via freeways and highways for ALL TO SEE and/or WITNESS! At least with the panties and hipsters, they're supposed to stay covered anyway.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To tmsyr11: You have a really funny way of deciding what's "truthful." How do you know there isn't a lawsuit against that trucking company? You once claimed to be Dine', why aren't you notifying tribal elders that you find this trucking company's name offensive and invasive? Oh yeah, because you're an apple/Imareala.

Old Lady's picture
Old Lady
Submitted by Old Lady on
I am so glad the Navajo are fighting this; may the tribe win, and any other tribe who also fights this kind of disgusting exploitation. Praying for the Navajo here.
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