Designer Katie Perry in ‘survival’ mode trying to save business from singer Katy Perry, court told
A Sydney-based designer has told a court she was in “survival mode” and thought she was going to lose her brand when she was sent cease and desist letters from US pop sensation Katy Perry.
Designer Katie Jane Taylor is suing the I Kissed A Girl singer in the Federal Court over the sale of clothes in Australia and what she claims is trademark infringement.
Ms Taylor, a mother of two, has operated a clothing label under her birth name Katie Perry since 2006 and held the trademark in Australia for more than a decade.
The Sydney designer is now suing the singer – whose real name is Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson – claiming she infringed her trademark by using one that was “substantially identical to or deceptively similar”.
Ms Taylor claims the singer has been using the trademark in Australia since at least 2013, selling products not only at her concerts but also at shops such as Myer and Target.
The designer took the stand to continue giving evidence during the second day of the hearing on Tuesday and was grilled by Ms Perry’s solicitor Matthew Darke SC.
When questioning Ms Taylor, Mr Darkes said the designer took her story to the media in 2009 because of the singer’s reputation.
“No, I thought they would be interested because it was a small business against a big conglomerate. I would have done the same if it was BHP,” she told the court.
The court was told that Ms Taylor took a clipping of the article and put it in a scrapbook. It quoted trademark lawyers who said it would be “no surprise” if Ms Perry would sell branded clothes.
Ms Taylor said she didn’t really read the contents of the article because she was so busy.
“I was running my own business, I thought I was about to lose my dream and there was an article, whether I skim-read it or not I put it in a scrapbook,” Ms Taylor said.
Mr Darke said the designer was “deliberately trying to ignore some things as it could be harmful to her”.
He said: “You don’t suggest to Your Honour you went to the effort of going to a newsagency, buying the paper, putting it in a scrapbook and not reading it?”
“I don’t recall spending time reading the article, it was a very crazy time for me, I was fighting for my business,” Ms Taylor responded.
“I was in survival mode, I was thinking about my business and surviving, I wasn’t thinking about the singer.”
Mr Darke continued to press the designer, claiming she knew Ms Perry was an international pop star and would eventually sell clothes in Australia at her concerts.
The court was told a Facebook group supporting the designer had been set up to allow people to share information on the case and allow Ms Taylor to talk to her supporters.
While Ms Taylor said she was in the Facebook group, she said she did not read every post.
Some of the posts in the group detailed how the singer was shooting to fame and planned to tour Australia. Ms Taylor told the court that she had no idea who the singer was.
In 2009 Ms Taylor went public with the legal battle in the form of a video message to the superstar on YouTube, which prompted an email from Ms Perry’s manager, Steven Jensen, to say the situation was “blown way out of proportion”.
“You said in a YouTube video you were not a threat to the singer and you wished her all the success in her career … that means you were perfectly fine for Katy Perry to use her name in Australia,” Mr Darkes said to Ms Taylor.
“You know full well the only way someone would have understood you were no threat to her and wishing her success is that you had no problem selling her clothes.”
Ms Taylor rejected the claim.
“No, if that’s the case why wouldn’t I have said that in the YouTube?” she asked.
Mr Darke said Ms Taylor had lied in both her affidavit and while giving evidence.
“I suggest you’re being utterly dishonest with Your Honour,” he said.
Mr Darke said Ms Taylor continued to try to promote her business by referencing Ms Perry.
He reference an interview Ms Taylor did with Who magazine where the journalist asked her questions about the trademark battle with the US pop sensation.
The Sydney designer told the court that was not the case.
In 2009 Ms Perry’s lawyers also sent cease and desist letters to the fashion designer and the pair attempted to negotiate a “co-existence”.
Barrister Christian Dimitriadis SC on Monday told the court that Ms Taylor had been designing clothes in Australia for almost 15 years.
He told the court the designer began her business “well before” she knew who the singer was and first heard Ms Perry’s songs on the radio in 2008.
Ms Taylor first began designing clothes in November 2007 when they were launched at a school charity event, then sold them at Sydney markets in May 2008. She had already registered her business and domain name “Katie Perry” in 2007.
The fashion designer launched litigation proceedings in October 2019.
The hearing will resume on Wednesday.
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