After Futura made his first public statement last week on the trademark infringement lawsuit he filed against The North Face earlier this year, the outdoor clothing brand has decided to phase out and discontinue the use of its Futurelight logo.
“The North Face, as well as VF Corporation and its family of brands, are home to and partners of many incredibly talented artists. We have great respect for artistic individuality, expression, and intellectual property, and would never want an artist to feel otherwise,” said the brand in a statement posted on their website tonight. “This includes the recent unfortunate situation involving Futura, an artist we hold in high esteem.”
The dispute between Futura and The North Face stemmed from the name and logo used to promote Futurelight—a waterproof fabric created by The North Face that was originally released in October of 2019. Aside from pointing out similarities to his own name, the pioneering New York City graffiti artist also claims that The North Face copied his famous spray-painted atom motif, a signature seen across many of Futura’s artworks and product collaborations since the 1980s. Futura’s lawyer Jeff Gluck—who runs an intellectual property litigation firm that has represented many graffiti artists in similar cases—said that Futurelight created confusion within the marketplace and damaged Futura as an artist, which is why the lawsuit is still ongoing.
“We appreciate everyone’s continued support and remain open and willing to come to terms with The North Face and bring these parties back together as allies, as they have been in the past, and should be moving forward,” Gluck tells Complex. “But above all, we remain committed to protecting Futura’s legacy.”
Although Futura’s atom is not an officially registered trademark, Gluck argues that registration is not required because it’s a common law trademark, which is established by using the mark on products, in commerce, for a certain period of time. Futura’s atom is featured on a wide range of products including his recently released collaboration with Uniqlo and his highly coveted Nike SB collaboration from 2004.
“We have hundreds of messages from people who congratulated him when the Futurelight collection came out, because they all assumed that it was Futura’s collection. They saw his logo and they saw the name: Futurelight,” says Gluck. “We have many messages and screenshots from people who actually purchased these items, went out and bought them, thinking that they were buying Futura’s goods. Of course, that’s extraordinarily damaging. Keep in mind, we’re not talking about a single North Face jacket here with a graphic on it. We’re talking about brand new fabric technology that the entire company is using for the majority of their product line and it’s almost like their new version of Gore-Tex. That’s what Futurelight is. So they’re bringing in massive revenues based on using this graphic and this name.”
Since Futurelight’s inception in 2019 it has been incorporated across The North Face’s product range. When Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson became the first people to ski from the 27,940-foot summit of Lhotse in 2018, they wore Summit Series jackets featuring Futurelight to promote the new technology. The North Face’s commercials for Futurelight were also centered on outdoor sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering. However, Futurelight is incorporated into products like the newly reissued 1994 Mountain Light jackets—an iconic North Face jacket that was popularized off mountains after it was co-opted by New York City graffiti writers in the ‘90s and brands like Supreme. In The North Face’s statement, the brand has defended the use of their logo saying that it was entirely coincidental and that Futura’s atom logo was not a part of the internal design team’s inspiration.
“While The North Face is confident there has been no infringement in this case, we are committed to supporting creative artists and their communities,” reads the statement “As a sign of that commitment and a sincere gesture of goodwill, we will begin to phase out and discontinue the use of the FUTURELIGHT™ circular nanospinning logo design out of deep respect for Futura and his work.”
The brand maintains that Futurelight’s circular logo was inspired by the nano spinning technology used to make Futurelight products and was further informed by the shape of its geodesic dome tent, which has been one of The North Face’s most iconic products for nearly 50 years. Although the origins of Futura’s atom logo and Futurelight seem to be worlds apart, Gluck argues that The North Face’s and Futura’s audiences crossover.
“You have to understand that The North Face sells many of their products at the same retailers and boutiques where Futura and Futura Laboratories collaborations are sold. It’s the same type of crossover demographic,” says Gluck. “The fact that they collaborate with Supreme every season shows you how important this demographic is to The North Face. And of course this is the very same demographic that Futura is known for. There’s no coincidence here.”
Towards the end of their statement, The North Face said they have clarified the original intent behind their Futurelight logo with Futura and his legal representatives many times and worked to find amicable solutions to reconcile this matter outside of a court within the past two years. Gluck claims that their statement is false and says that The North Face only reached out after Futura issued his statement and the brand began receiving backlash from the creative community.
“Maybe The North Face’s PR team and their legal team need to have a conversation with each other because it seems like they aren’t on the same page at all,” says Gluck. “It makes no sense.”
As mentioned in Futura’s original statement last week, Gluck also said it’s unusual for a brand like The North Face to threaten an artist to pay their legal fees—The North Face told Complex that: “At this time, the brand has not pursued any legal fees or recoveries from Futura in conjunction with this lawsuit. This scenario would only be pursued if his filings, which have already been rejected by the court, are pursued in such a manner that the litigation becomes legally “exceptional” for continuing to pursue the same arguments in a court of law.” Although those filings have been rejected, the case still remains open. Gluck believes that this move by the brand’s lawyers was a clear attempt to intimidate Futura and get him to walk away. He says Futura has no intention of doing that.
“It is not possible for The North Face to hold Futura in “high-esteem” or respect his work while simultaneously filing a legal motion that could destroy him. No one is going to be fooled by this self-serving and superficial PR statement from The North Face that their lawyers probably wrote for them,” Gluck told Complex. “There’s always a way to resolve these disputes in a positive and productive context where it can be beneficial to everybody. There can be some good that comes out of this. We encourage and invite that.”