Skip to main content

The North Face in hot water over logo design dispute

The North Face
(Image credit: The North Face)

Apparel brand The North Face is facing a problem after being accused of copyright infringement by renowned street artist Futura. The contested design appears on The North Face's 2019 range of waterproof clothing, named 'FUTURELIGHT', and takes the form of an atom-like motif. It's a design which has appeared in a $20 million advertising campaign. 

According to the lawsuit filed by Futura, the North Face's choice of name and 'almost identical logo', 'purposefully invoked [Futura] in order to suggest an association with him'. Perhaps The North Face should have looked elsewhere for logo design inspiration, because it has managed to create something spookily reminiscent of Futura's design. But is it enough to warrant a lawsuit?

The North Face vs Futura

The two logos, side-by-side (Image credit: U.S District Court in the Central District of California)

Well, clearly, the designs are uncannily similar, especially in the versions shown above. The basic shape is the same, with the external line providing the point of difference between a standard atom and Futura's stylised design (though sometimes this does not appear so clearly in Futura's design). The use of colour is also replicated in this instance, with the stark white showing up against a darker background. 

Of course, due to the street art style of the motif in some applications (such as above), the designs do often differ in their overall impression, with the FUTURELIGHT logo presenting sleek, blocky lines rather than a spray painted, slightly wild effect (compare above and below). And the external boundary of the atom is a totally different shape in the FUTURELIGHT version, more structured and angular.

See more

But The North Face's logo has even picked up on that thicker internal swirl, which appears in many of Futura's iterations, and the angles of many of the atom's lines are almost replicated in its own logo. 

Plus, there are two further points which undoubtedly strengthen Futura's case: the fact that the two brands have worked together before, in 2006, (so The North Face must be more than aware of Futura's designs), and the use of the word 'Future' in the clothing range's name. It is certainly true that, as the court filing suggests, the name and graphic design together create a very clear impression of Futura's work.


A sample of the $20 million campaign (Image credit: The North Face)

The North Face neglected to contact Futura ahead of the release of the new brand, and also has yet to comment on the ongoing litigation. Futura's legal representative, Jeff Gluck, said in a statement "The North Face seems like they care a lot about being cool. This is probably the most uncool thing they have ever done. We gave them every opportunity to try and resolve these claims, but they had no interest." 

Given The North Face has collaborated with a slew of high profile brands, one would think it would want to offer up an explanation or statement about the claims. After all, a copycat accusation is clear way to alienate and antagonise designers. 

We'll wait to see whether this case goes the same way as Citroën's recent successful suing of Volvo's Polestar. Let us know what you think @creativebloq on Twitter and Facebook.

Read more: