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Injunction Upheld Against Ex-Von Dutch Owner

Times Staff Writer

A U.S. District Court judge upheld an injunction Monday against the former owner of Von Dutch Originals, banning Michael Cassel from using the clothing company’s logo until a trademark infringement case is heard later this year.

Cassel sought to remove the injunction, which was issued Feb. 11 in Los Angeles by Judge Christina A. Snyder, and asked Snyder to instead bar Von Dutch Originals from selling the trademark. An earlier restraining order prevented Cassel from using the logo and selling Von Dutch merchandise.

The company, now headed by Tonny Sorensen, saw sales of its biker- and hot rod-inspired apparel and accessories take off last year after celebrities such as singer Justin Timberlake and actor Ashton Kutcher sported its hats and T-shirts.

The daughters of founder Kenny Howard -- nicknamed Von Dutch -- had sold Cassel the rights to Howard’s name and associated images in 1996, four years after he died. Cassel created Von Dutch Originals in 1999.

Facing financial difficulties, Cassel entered into a partnership with Sorensen in November 2000. Lawyers representing Von Dutch Originals allege that two years later Cassel relinquished his stake in the company and any hold over the trademark. Attorney Michael Adele, who represents the company, also contends that Cassel illegally authorized the sale of Von Dutch merchandise in some Asian countries, and says the firm has documents that show Cassel’s signature on the orders.

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Cassel has said the signatures are a forgery and maintains his innocence. The former owner believes he still has a stake in the licensing agreement.

The trademark infringement case will be heard Aug. 17.


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