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Canada Goose vs. Sears Canada: Bully or brilliant?

Garments on display at the Canada Goose Inc. showroom in Toronto on November 28, 2013. Canada Goose, one of the world's leading makers of extreme weather outerwear, is selling a majority stake in the company to private investment firm Bain Capital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Canada Goose is many things: a made-in-Canada success story to the many admirers of the brand; an overpriced sell-out to its critics.

But is the maker of one of the world’s most sought-after winter parkas really a big bully, as Sears Canada would have us believe?

The once-mighty department-store chain brought out the “b”word Wednesday in its terse response to an ongoing trademark-infringement lawsuit launched by Canada Goose late last year.

Canada Goose alleges that Sears is selling knock-offs of its distinctive jackets, complete with a circular patch on the arm and fur trim.

Sears claims the parka maker’s real motive is to curtail the sales of lower-priced winter jackets so Canada Goose can keep selling its products "at a huge mark up."

"Canada Goose is simply attempting to bully Sears and others through demands, unfounded litigation, statements in the press and the like, into ceasing activities that Canada Goose knows do not cause confusion or any harm to it," Sears alleges.

It’s a debate that is, of course, ultimately up to the courts to decide.

No doubt, the whole world will be watching. That’s the kind of reach the Canada Goose brand has now.

The company recently shed all pretense of Canadian modesty with the founding family agreeing to a purchase deal with the Boston-based private-equity firm, Bain Capital.

Canada Goose is a bona fide rising star in the international fashion scene, with plenty of money behind it and a genuine pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

With so much at stake, it has every right to defend its unique design, and the pricetag their trademark look commands.

“The whole point of making a great product is so you can charge lots of money for it. Just ask Louis Vuitton,” said Doug Stephens, a retail analyst in Toronto and founder of Retail Prophet.

Louis Vuitton is just one example of a global luxury brand that routinely fights to protect its products and prices.

To Will Poho, founder and creative director of Montreal’s fashion-forward Moose Knuckles firm, Canada Goose is anything but a bully.

“They created something special and they deserve the fruits of their labours,” he told Yahoo Canada Finance.

Poho said there is no shortage of “bottom feeders” who try and rip-off the unique look of a superior brand.

“There are those who create and those who try and capitalize on other people’s success,” he said.

Like Canada Goose, Moose Knuckles also makes down jackets with a fur-lined hood at a luxury price point upwards of $700 a coat. Both companies design and manufacture their products in Canada.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

“We are more of a fashion brand. We try and make you laugh,” Poho said.

Stephens dismissed the bullying charges leveled by Sears as “a really desperate play” by a retail company in serious decline.

Sears Canada has been rapidly shedding prime lease space in urban centres across the country and laying off hundreds of employees as it retreats to the suburbs.

Stephens recalled a time when Sears was a leader in innovation: the company that popularized catalogue shopping and brought insurance, optical and dental services under one roof.

“They have lost sight of that (history). Now they are grasping at straws, anything to make them relevant again,” he said.

Canada Goose has previously sued International Clothiers Inc., alleging it intentionally designed a logo and positioned it on jackets to mimic the Canada Goose Arctic Program design trademark.

The lawsuit was later settled on undisclosed terms.