Punky apparel chain Hot Topic Inc. is getting raked over the coals by rock 'n' roll queen bee Joan Jett, whose Blackheart Records Group Inc. is accusing the clothier of ripping off the Blackheart name for a new lingerie line.
Blackheart sued Hot Topic in Manhattan federal court this week, taking issue with the skull-and-crossbones-emblazoned panties and snake-print push-up bras the mall staple recently began selling under its own Blackheart label.
Marketing efforts from the City of Industry-based fashion brand "were geared towards trading off the substantial goodwill associated" with Jett's New York record label, according to the suit. In addition to trademark infringement, the complaint also alleges unfair competition and false advertising.
The Blackheart intimates collection uses the tagline "Lingerie for Girls Who Rock & Roll."
Jett shot to fame as a teenager in the 1970s with her girl band the Runaways, recently profiled in a film featuring Kristen Stewart. Later, the enfant terrible helped form the band Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, churning out hits such as "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," "Bad Reputation" and "Crimson and Clover."
She also ushered in a fashion craze built on her devil-may-care attitude, all-abiding love of leather, shaggy black hair and copious use of dark eye makeup. Even Mattel made use of the look when it created a Joan Jett Barbie doll several years ago.
It was an ethos that informed the black heart symbol now associated with Blackheart Records, which according to this week's complaint has been a federally registered trademark since 1985.
The name, according to the suit, means "loner" in Jamaican nautical lingo.
Blackheart Records had been selling its own apparel, jewelry and accessories for some time when it was approached by Hot Topic in 2010. The brand, a favorite of goth teens, wanted to partner with Jett's company to design and distribute merchandise, according to the complaint.
But Blackheart Records said it was taken aback when Hot Topic emerged with its own, separate Blackheart collection of goods. Hot Topic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
[Updated, June 13, 1:40 p.m.: In a statement, Hot Topic said it "takes the rights of artists very seriously" and said it has compensated Jett over the years "with mutually agreed-upon license agreements for the sale of tee shirts featuring her image."
The company said it has 11 registered trademarks for the use of the Blackheart brand for retail stores, apparel, lingerie, accessories, cosmetics and more. Hot Topic accused Blackheart Records of abandoning its trademark filings for apparel and accessories years ago.
"This lawsuit is a surprise to us, and we are confident in our rights to use the Blackheart brand name," the retailer said.]
The sale of the lingerie, according to the suit, “will continue to cause substantial and irreparable harm” to Jett’s venture.
In March, Hot Topic was sold for $600 million to private equity firm and Talbots owner Sycamore Partners.