IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Judge rules in 10-year-old Victoria’s Secret case

Victor isn't allowed to have a little secret anymore.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Victor isn't allowed to have a little secret anymore.

A federal judge has permanently enjoined Victor and Cathy Moseley from using the names "Victor's Secret" and "Victor's Little Secret" on their adult novelty and lingerie shop in central Kentucky.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson said in a ruling issued Wednesday that the names violate the trademark of Ohio-based lingerie retailer Victoria's Secret under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act.

"The use of the remarkably similar 'Victor's Secret' or 'Victor's Little Secret' in connection with the sale of intimate lingerie along with sex toys and adult videos tarnishes the reputation of the Victoria's Secret mark," Simpson wrote.

An e-mail message left with Victoria's Secret and its parent company, Limited Brands, was not immediately returned. Phone messages left for the Moseleys were not immediately returned.

The case has been bouncing around the legal system for 10 years, since the Moseleys opened their shop in Elizabethtown, about 45 minutes south of Louisville.

Simpson previously issued an injunction ordering the Moseleys to stop using the name in 1998, but the decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 and sent back for further proceedings. The Moseleys changed the name of the store to "Cathy's Little Secret" in 2000, while the previous injunction was in place.

The case started when an Army colonel saw an ad for the opening of "Victor's Secret" and sent it to Victoria's Secret in Columbus, Ohio.

The lingerie chain sued the Moseleys, who changed the name of the store to "Victor's Little Secret," but the national chain pressed on with the lawsuit. The store then became "Cathy's Little Secret" in 2000.

The case centered on a legal standard called "dilution," which courts have held as "the lessening of the capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish goods and services." That's what Victoria's Secret claimed the Kentucky store was doing — lessening its ability to distinguish itself from competitors.

Since the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress passed the Federal Trademark Dilution Act, which eliminated a requirement that company's such as Victoria's Secret show a trademark violation actually cost it money. Under the new law, Victoria's Secret needed to show that its trademark was well known, registered and valuable and that it had been violated.

"Without doubt, the Victoria's Secret mark is valuable," Simpson wrote.