A small fashion company is due to face high-street giant Zara at a tribunal over claims it has an “identical brand”.
The retailer has threatened legal action against Darlington-based firm House of Zana.
Owner Amber Kotrri launched the clothing brand online in 2018, and opened her first store in Darlington a year later.
When she attempted to trademark the name House of Zana, she received a notice of opposition, followed by a letter from lawyers representing Zara saying the brand was “conceptually identical” to theirs, and “confusingly similar” for customers.
The letter says there is a risk “consumers will misread, mishear, mispronounce and/or otherwise perceive House of Zana as Zara” and that the brand name “dilutes the distinctiveness and reputation of the Zara brand”.
Mrs Kotrri said she was urged to rename her business and remove all existing branding, but she refused to sign the agreement, saying there was “no risk of confusing us with Zara” and the change would “cause irreparable damage” to the business.
The final hearing to decide whether she can keep the name House of Zana is due to take place in May.
Mrs Kotrri started the business while living with her husband in Albania, taking the name from the Albanian word for ‘fairy’.
She said: “Our name is very meaningful and personal to us and poses no commercial threat to Zara, and their massive market.
“We don’t believe anyone has or will confuse House of Zana with Zara. We’re a small business that specialises in handmade kimonos. We have one small concept store in the North East of England and a website to help promote our products.
“We have exerted all of our efforts into creating this unique brand, and having just struggled through the pandemic, the last thing we want to do is to be forced to change the brand, remove all labels that are sewn into our stock, change our social media names and shop front.
“This would cause irreparable damage to our small and loved business. We have spent years growing our dream and employing a wonderful team.”
A spokesperson for Zara’s owner Inditex said: “We have opposed the ‘House of Zana’ trademark application at this early stage because of its similarity to Zara’s brand name.
“We wish the business every success and we continue to make efforts to reach the business directly so we can resolve the situation amicably.”