IP Snippets

UNITED STATES: Claims of Cultural Appropriation Sink Kim Kardashian’s KIMONO Brand

Published: September 1, 2019

Alexander B. Lutzky Haynes and Boone, LLP San Antonio, Texas, USA INTA Bulletins Committee - North America Subcommittee


Cynthia A. Moyer Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA INTA Bulletins Committee - North America Subcommittee

Recent efforts by Kim Kardashian West to acquire U.S. trademark registrations for KIMONO for a line of clothing, accessories, perfumes, and a related retail store chain have been derailed by extra-legal claims of cultural appropriation. A rising tide of social media discontent, coupled with a letter sent by the Mayor of Kyoto, Japan, and an announcement by the Japanese Patent Office that it would send a delegation to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to discuss the matter, sunk Ms. Kardashian West’s plans to use the word KIMONO for her goods and services.

In April 2018, Kimono Intimates, Inc., a company affiliated with Ms. Kardashian West, filed four U.S. trademark applications for the word “kimono” in standard characters and in stylized type for goods in International Classes 3, 18, 25, and retail store services in International Class 35.

Shortly after filing U.S. Application Serial Number 88/479,867 for on June 19, 2019, Ms. Kardashian West announced the launch of her clothing line. Almost immediately, claims of cultural appropriation related to the traditional Japanese garment of the same name permeated social media. Initially defending her choice of brand name to the New York Times on June 27, she changed course on July 1 in an Instagram post, announcing she would not be using the KIMONO mark.

With recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions striking down sections of U.S. trademark law that prohibit the registration of immoral, scandalous, or disparaging trademarks, potential legal barriers to the KIMONO applications based on claims of cultural appropriation appear non-existent. But the court of public opinion appears to have speedily ruled instead. However, while Ms. Kardashian West appears to have made an about-face, the four U.S. trademark applications owned by Kimono Intimates, Inc., were still live and pending before the USPTO as of July 24, 2019.

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