Oh No, Yoko! Yoko Ono Sued for Copyright Infringement Over Opening Ceremony Line

By: Amelia Wong

On Friday March 22, 2013, Brooklyn designer Haleh Nematzadeh filed a suit against Yoko Ono in Brooklyn federal court for infringement of Nematzadeh’s designs. Nematzadeh claimed that Ono’s team saw her clothing designs, changed them slightly, and sold the styles online, passing off the designs as Ono’s own work. Outraged, Nematzadeh has stated, “They took everything with no shame. They stole from me blatantly.”[1]

The 14-page complaint alleges, “The offending collection copied exact designs as well as imitated the designs and concepts from plaintiff’s collection. In order to conceal their thievery…defendants renamed the collection and called it a collection for men. Despite defendants’ feeble attempt at disguising the unlawful use of plaintiff’s collection, it is clear that defendants copied plaintiff’s design.”[2] The complain explains further “One piece of the collection is a bra-like design. Defendants copied the design and used a male model to model it. The ridiculousness of this farce stands on its face.”[3]

Nematzadeh claims that she met with Opening Ceremony, the retailer who sells Ono’s line, in July 2012 seeking to get her “Gonna Walk the Night” collection into their catalogue. Nematzadeh further alleges that Opening Ceremony photographers were supposed to meet with Nematzadeh, but instead decided to work with Ono and change the designs into a menswear line.

Nematzadeh’s “Gonna Walk the Night” line is fetish-inspired, involving nipple holes, sheer material, and handprints all over the crotch and breast. Ono’s collaboration with Opening Ceremony also features nipple holes and handprints on crotches. Ono’s statement on the Opening Website reads “I was inspired to create fashion for men, amazed at how my man was looking so great. I felt it was a pity if we could not make clothes emphasizing his very sexy body. So, I made this whole series with love for his hot bod and gave it to him as a wedding present. You can imagine how he went wild and fell in love with me even more.”[4]

ImageNematzadeh’s designs on the left, Yoko Ono’s on the right.
(Picture from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/26/yoko-ono-sued-haleh-nematzadeh-opening-ceremony-collection_n_2956009.html)

Nematzadeh fires back in her suit arguing that Ono’s statement is transparent and this has been the first time Ono has designed clothes. “She’s trying to put fetish in context, but since when does fetish and John Lennon go together? When you think of the Beatles, you think of dove and trees, not that,” Namatzadeh stated.[5]

Nematzadeh’s lawyer Aymen Aboushi said that “They [big companies] rip off pieces here and there all the time, but you don’t see up-and-coming artists really trying to fight for their rights.”[6] His client Nematzadeh seeks $10 million for copyright infringement, disgorgement of unjust profits, and delivery or destruction of the offending products.

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