A BOUTIQUE fashion owner has defended her branding after clothing giant ZARA opened legal action against her business claiming it was too similar.  

The multi-billion fashion giant has launched legal action against Amber Kotrri and her Darlington-based firm, House of Zana, after objecting to her trademark application.

Mrs Kotrri appeared at a trademark tribunal hearing on Tuesday to defend her application, where she argued there is no similarity to ZARA’s brand name. The dispute was heard at the tribunal after she refused a written request from Zara to change her branding last year.

ZARA argues there is a risk "consumers will misread, mishear, mispronounce and/or otherwise perceive House of Zana as ZARA" and that the brand name "dilutes the distinctiveness and reputation the ZARA brand".

RECAP: Zara and House of Zana in court over shop’s branding

The Northern Echo: Amber Kotrri, of House of Zana. Picture: TRACEY KIDDAmber Kotrri, of House of Zana. Picture: TRACEY KIDD

Representing Inditex, the parent company which owns ZARA, Julia King told the hearing there was a clear similarity between the current ZARA trademark and that of House of Zana. She said that there would likely be confusion among shoppers over the two brands, who would potentially see them as the same, which would have a detrimental impact on ZARA’s brand.  

ZARA, the opponent in the trademark case, argues that there are distinctive visual and oral similarities between the two brands, while shoppers will also assume the Darlington-based firm is part of the global chain.

Ms King said: “There’s both the likelihood of direct and indirect confusion. The words “House of” are so descriptive and non-distinctive and Zana looks so much like ZARA in that font that we can really see how the average consumer would misread House of Zana given the small difference.

“The average consumer would make a link between the two of them when confronted with House of Zana.”

ZARA says the handwritten typeface of the House of Zana logo means the word ‘Zana’ is “only one small brushstroke away” from being the same word.

Having initially launched her business online in 2018, House of Zana specialises in ethically sourced and sustainable, high-quality clothing. Yet ZARA argues that the potential low-quality of its designs would affect the reputation of the global chain.

Read more: Zara threatens Darlington's House of Zana with action over branding

The Northern Echo: House of Zana, Darlington. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTHouse of Zana, Darlington. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Ms King told the hearing: “If the applicant’s goods are of inferior quality, that could damage the ZARA brand because of that mental link being made. It could be if the fashion goods are out of kilter with the latest fashion trends and you see the average consumer thinking ‘Zara’s not what it used to be’ and it constitutes very serious damage to its reputation.

“There’s also a risk of damage through the opponent’s sales potentially being diverted by average consumers accessing a website of the applicant in error.”

But Mrs Kotrri highlighted how her independent local business is smaller than and has a different ethos to one of the high streets most popular fast fashion brands.

The former Art and Design student at Stockton Riverside College plays a pivotal role in the daily operation, from designing clothing to selecting fabrics.

Read more: ZARA responds after legal action against House of Zana

She said: “The average consumer would easily be able to understand the difference between the two brands and would not be confused. It would be clear to any average consumer that the applicant is not attempting to be like the opposition in any way.

“House of Zana has never been nor is there any intention for it to be referred to as ‘Zana’ alone. House of Fraser, for example, is not recognisable when you see the word ‘Fraser’.”

The Northern Echo:

Despite similar pronunciations and ZARA’s argument that the House of Zana logo may be perceived as that of its own, Mrs Kotrri says there are clear differences between the two brands.

She said: “Visually and orally, there are some similarities between the two marks if you use the word alone, such that they both contain the letters z and a.

“There are also many points of dissimilarity in that House of Zana is made up of three words stylized in italics and within a black circle. Taking all matters into account, the respective accounts have a low degree of visual similarity, and the dissimilarities outweigh the similarities.”

A decision on the trademark ruling is expected to be delivered later this year.

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