In a significant development in the fast-fashion industry, Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M), has initiated a lawsuit against Chinese retailer Shein for alleged copyright infringement.
Hennes & Mauritz, the Swedish fashion brand more commonly known as H&M, has accused its competitor of copying its designs in the new lawsuit. The company is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction to stop Shein from infringing on its copyright and trademarks.
Zoetop Business Co., the Hong Kong-based entity that previously owned Shein, and Shein Group Ltd., are named as defendants in the Court filing.
The action comes as H&M attempts to counter the emerging threat posed by Shein’s growing influence in the market since July 2021.
The lawsuit filed includes photos of H&M items, such as swimwear and sweaters, as ‘evidence’ that Shein had stolen its designs were released to the public after the hearing at the Hong Kong High Court on 21st June 21. The next hearing is slated to take place July 31.
Previously, in September, 2023, the Hong Kong Court heard the case for the first time and the judge allowed the case to proceed, according to a separate document released in May.
Notably, while there have been numerous allegations related to the intellectual property infringement leveled against the online retailer in the past three years, H&M’s action is a rare case of an established fast-fashion rival filing suit.
Shein’s sales in 2021 were far less than those of H&M, but its skyrocketing sales growth, fueled by the rapid launch of new products and strong digital marketing strategies on social media, drew the attention of companies and designers in western markets, including the US and Europe.
Moreover, earlier Shein was accused by independent designers of infringement-related racketeering activities (an approach commonly used to target organized crime) in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 1970 lawsuit (RICO).
In 2022, Shein had sued Chinese-owned online retailer Temu in the US, alleging trademark and copyright infringement as well as ‘false and deceptive business practices.’
Retaliating to the same, Temu countersued, alleging that the company violated antitrust laws by using threats and intimidation to stop clothing manufacturers from working with it.
The claimants contended that Shein had used ‘secretive algorithm’ to identify trending art and allegedly reproduced artists’ designs for its fast fashion website.