Nine West Asks Drag Queen Nina West to Sashay Away… From Her Trademark Application

by Jessica R. Corpuz

Global fashion brand Nine West recently filed a Notice of Opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board contesting the registration of the mark “Nina West” by a company owned by Andrew Levitt, drag name Nina West.

Nine West, popular for its shoe, handbag, and accessory lines, filed for bankruptcy in 2018.  It was acquired by Authentic Brands Group (“ABG”), which also owns the brands Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, and Reebok, among others.  ABG filed the Notice of Opposition on Nine West’s behalf.

Nina West is a drag queen who rose to national prominence on the eleventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she placed sixth and won Miss Congeniality.  She is also set to play Edna Turnblad in the upcoming national tour of the Tony-winning musical Hairspray.   Nina became a fan favorite for her exuberant personality and campy sense of style, which often includes loud colors and statement pieces.  She also made history as the first person to walk the Emmys red carpet in full drag.

Nina West sought to trademark her name for use on jewelry pins, tote bags, and shirts.  Nine West claimed that Nina West’s trademark application would create a likelihood of confusion between the brands and that it created a “false suggestion of connection with persons… or brings them into contempt, or disrepute.”

In essence, the USPTO will refuse registration of a trademark under the Trademark Act Section 2(a) if it falsely suggests a connection between one brand and another.  The question is whether the new mark points uniquely and unmistakably to the older mark holder.

Here, Nine West will surely face an uphill battle to argue anyone would be confused between the staid offerings of a middle-market fashion brand versus the colorful and eclectic style of a campy drag queen.  Sadly, this dispute will be settled through the US Patent and Trademark Office rather than a “lip-sync for your life” like the finale of each episode of Drag Race.

May the best brand win!