Urban Outfitters Finally Settled Its Lawsuit With The Navajo Nation

Photo: Konrad Fiedler/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Urban Outfitters has resolved its legal battle with the Navajo Nation at long last. Five years ago, the retailer landed in hot water with the Navajo Nation (the largest Native American tribe) for trademark infringement because of its "Navajo" and "Navaho" product lines. The tribe filed a lawsuit in New Mexico in March 2012 over the cultural appropriation of its name and aesthetic, after concerns were first raised over the striking similarities (and cribbed moniker) back in October 2011.

There were over 20 different problematic products misleadingly marketed using the Navajo name (and various signature patterns or motifs that are distinctively associated with the tribe), including a flask, socks, and underwear. The terms and the payout of the settlement haven't been disclosed.

“We are pleased we’ve reached an agreement with the Navajo Nation,” said Azeez Hayne, Urban Outfitters' general counsel, said in a statement obtained by Refinery29. “We take the rights of artists and designers seriously, both in protecting our own and in respecting the rights of others. As a company URBN has long been inspired by the style of Navajo and other American Indian artists and looks forward to the opportunity to work with them on future collaborations."

Interestingly, there will probably be official Navajo goods landing in your local Urban Outfitters down the line. The tribe and the retailer have a "supply and license agreement" that will involve pairing up on a line of jewelry, per a statement from the tribe's leaders, according to Reuters.

"We believe in protecting our Nation, our artisans, designs, prayers, and way of life," Navajo Nation's president, Russell Begaye, told Reuters. "We expect that any company considering the use of the Navajo name, or our designs or motifs, will ask us for our permission."

For a recap of why, exactly, it's so problematic for Native American designs to get unlawfully co-opted, here's a helpful refresher.
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