Darlington fashion brand House of Zana wins trademark battle against Zara
Owner Amber Kotrri now wants her victory to empower other independents to stand up to big businesses and tells us what actually happened during her court battle.
After years of putting hard work into building her dream business, Darlington fashion brand House of Zana owner Amber has successfully taken on the world’s largest fashion retailer.
When Amber received a notice of opposition from Inditexa – a Spanish conglomerate with global multibillion pound sales and brands including Massimo Dutti, Bershka and Zara – claiming similarities of her business to Zara she was determined to not back down.
Following two years of fighting for her business and bravely representing herself in court, she has finally claimed her victory. That’s why we had to catch up with Amber to talk about this challenging time and how her win has led to bigger things.
Congratulations on your victory. How do you feel?
I feel really proud of my brand, my team and myself for doing it. This is a great moment for businesses to know that they can actually stand up to these big giants.
There has been so many people reaching out to me since hearing about my experience to say they’re going through the same thing and that I’ve given them strength. I hope my victory empowers other local business owners to fight for their livelihoods and not be forced to close.
Talk us through what happened when you received your notice of opposition from Zara?
About two years ago we received a notice of opposition to our trademark from Inditex’s lawyers that said that they think that my brand is very conceptually visual and orally similar to Zara and that the average consumer may be confused.
They asked me to take my website down, close my store, take the labels out of my clothing and literally sign on the dotted line and I had three months to do this.
How did you feel receiving this?
I had that first feeling of horror but then I could never have imagined taking a pen and signing that – it wasn’t going to happen. So, I thought I’m just going to go with it and either way, I’ll have to fight it even if I lose in the end at least I’ve fought my corner.
I ignored them and then they started to serve a notice of opposition. For over a year we began going backwards and forwards with evidence where I had to show why I chose my brand name, the meaning behind it and why it’s different to theirs which all ended in the court case in May.
What were your main arguments against Zara’s claim?
- Our name was Zara’s main argument against us but it’s completely different because the visual aspect is three words House of Zana not one and we’ve never called it Zana alone
- The word Zana has got an ‘n’ in it so it’s a different spelling
- The meaning behind Zana is different too. It’s an Albanian word, which is where my husband was born, and it means fairies. People know that we’re an Albanian brand through our designs and won’t be confused that it’s Zara
- Our ethos of sustainability is different i.e. where our pieces are made and the size of our stores
- Our logo design isn’t similar to Zara’s
What made you want to represent yourself in court?
I know I’m the most passionate person about my brand, so I wanted to speak for myself. My colleague Olivia helped me pull everything together and we decided that there was no need to have a lawyer because we would be just telling them what to say and we wouldn’t be able to afford one, too.
Zara obviously could afford a full team of lawyers which was slightly intimating but I fully believed in our argument which fuelled me when sharing evidence. After the court hearing was heard, two months later we finally received the verdict and I was overjoyed.
How has your trademark battle led you to learn more about your brand and yourself?
I’ve learned so much about myself as to how I will fight for what I believe in. Having that support from everyone on social media and knowing people were behind me made me want to do this, not for myself but for everyone that didn’t have this position to prove that we can win.
It was stressful, very time-consuming and I had a baby in between but looking back I have learned so much and it has taken the business to another level because it’s given me new confidence and we’ve had loads of new people finding out about us.
What’s next for you?
We’ve got big plans for online sales because from this we’ve got customers all over the country now. We’ve got all our new collection launching which we had to hold off on because we didn’t know what was going to happen.
Now we’re just working on getting bigger and better and being a voice for any other businesses going through this, letting them know that they aren’t alone.