It’s hard to successfully sue anyone for ripping off a clothing design in a US court, but Balenciaga is prepared to give it a shot. The French company alleges that American mass apparel brand Steve Madden has purposefully ripped off the most recognized portion of its super-successful Motorcycle Bag with the intent of confusing consumers, and it’s prepared to prove so in court, according to The Fashion Law.

Kering, which owns Balenciaga, is suing under “trade dress” laws, which are a subtype of trademark protection that doesn’t require a piece of design to contain a logo or clear branding in order to be protected. Instead, when a design itself is distinct enough to signal a brand identity to consumers, its creators are then eligible for protection from knockoffs. Balenciaga filed for trade dress protection for the front pocket portion of its Motorcycle Bags in 2007, and now the brand intends to use it.

As The Fashion Law points out, this isn’t the first time that Balenciaga has filed against Steve Madden; in 2009, Madden ripped off a pair of Balenciaga runway shoes and eventually paid an undisclosed sum to settle the lawsuit after two years of litigation. Madden later dismissed the lawsuit as “stupid,” but we have a feeling he might feel differently about this one – because of the long-filed registration and the ubiquity of Balenciaga’s Motorcycle design, it seems like the brand has a strong case.

We weren’t able to find any examples of the bags with which Balenciaga took specific issue, but it isn’t hard to imagine them. Lots of brands have bitten Balenciaga’s signature bag in the decade-plus that it’s been around, and changes in the brand’s management style over the last 18 months may mean that they’re looking to make an example of Madden for all others who might think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • AshleyG

    I’ve seen them- and most recently I saw a mini crossbody version in my local TJ Maxx- my mom and I had a nice laugh about it. If this was Michael Kors or Coach or some other similar brand with a strong following, I’d understand. But, it’s Steve Madden… I doubt the brand made that much money off of it- the crossbody (in summer appropriate cream!) was only $30. *shrugs* Just my opinion though- I’m no legal eagle by ANY means.

  • Courtney McAlexander

    Before i was ever into designer bags (at least 10 years ago), I bought a “knock off” Balenciaga and Fendi Spy bag without even knowing what they were from a small accessories store in my town. I just thought they were pretty, ha! As I started getting into bags more (mainly b/c of tPF), I eventually realized what they were. I think that’s the case a lot of the times, customers don’t even know that they are buying a rip-off of another bag.

    • pe.riche.

      Before I started into designer bags, I only purchased what I liked with no knowledge that the bag had been “inspired” by designer houses. Coincidentally, I too purchased what turned out to be a Spy Bag knockoff! Lol.

      And I have to agree, most people have no idea that the bag they are carrying (or clothes, shoes, or jewelry) has in some part been inspired by high end labels. If you are actively seeking out Steve Madden, I doubt you know of a Balenciaga or any other designer SM may have “borrowed” from.

      • AsiaW

        It doesn’t matter if the end consumer was aware of buying a design that was stolen! It’s even worse, because it means that someone stole someone else’s HARD WORK. So the customer paid the thief for a good design that wasn’t theirs!!!

    • Cherryorchard

      Same here, a total one-on-one knock off Bal bag was one of my favorites 10 yrs ago. I just thought it looked cool in the OIS clothing store (which is producing more and more knock offs all the time, it seems). Since finding out about the true story, I have since discarded the bag and the thought of it sickens me.

  • Sam Johnson

    You can see some examples on

    • Name

      Hmm which bag is he claiming to be a copy? I went through the list and nothing there really reminded me of Balenciaga. Now if Proenza (PS1 look alikes) and Chanel (Enchained Boy Bag look alikes) made a claim I could see why based on what Zappos is selling…I think this one is a losing battle for them. Besides I’ve seen other brands make much more bold copies of other designers’ pieces (i.e. Michaels Kors mirroring numerous LV bags)

      • Cherie

        YES!! I saw new Michael kors bags in the mall last week that is a complete rip off the LV damier ebene and azur prints. I know in the past it has happened too with other designs, but when I saw these new MK bags, they are a deliberate copy. LV should be able to sue, if any one could.

      • Guest0915

        I saw that online! I’m a fan of Michael Kors but that new print is way too much of a blatant rip-off.

    • weaslgrl

      It could be the Steve Madden “Btalia Satchel” — that has some echoes of Balenciaga.

  • tata

    might as well sue the kardashians too for their handbags…

  • sev2108

    Wow – I looked at Steve Madden bags on Zappos and it seems they’re knocking everyone off! Proenza anyone?

    • Suyuri

      Proenza is a pretty new designer. There has been tons of double strap messenger/street bags out with similar designs prior to their debut so I don’t think they’re that original either.

  • laura

    if Steve Madden were to be sued by every ripoff/look-alike, the company would go out of business. He basically copies everyone’s designs.

  • I’m interested in seeing the results of this lawsuit. Regardless of what happens, I don’t think this will end. Like the commenters here already mentioned, most people don’t know they’re buying an “inspired” version of a designer item!

    On another note, I recently saw an almost EXACT copy of the Alexander Wang Rocco bag at F21. =

  • Henriette Hessen

    This was the closest I could fine of Steve madden bag. It is evident that the snap is the exact same (dimensions) and also the leather tassles hanging down. However no bales and rivets!

    • LC

      Hmmm similar but not exactly a B.

  • Christine Hsia
    • Anika

      OMG totally! What’s wrong with Steve Madden?! Sheesh.

  • So scandalous!


  • Aimee Rogers

    I think it is the Btalia satchel they are talking about.

  • Ruby

    I don’t think anyone who is interested in a Bal bag will be deceived by the inspiration bags. I think it has zero impact on their sales.

  • Abbi

    Did they sue the Kardashian Kollection? Those were blatent rip offs…

  • LC

    Post no good without photos.