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Sealaska Heritage and Nieman Marcus will settle lawsuit over sale of Ravenstail coat

Jan 4, 2021

The lawsuit over Nieman Marcus selling a coat that bears a striking resemblance to a copyrighted, Alaska Native Ravenstail pattern is close to a settlement. 

Nieman Marcus sold a coat under the name “Ravenstail Knitted Coat.” Sealaska Heritage Institute says that infringed on the copyrighted pattern in “Discovering the Angles of an Electrified Heart,” originally created by the late weaver Clarissa Rizal. (Photo courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)

Sealaska Heritage Institute and the heirs of the late weaver Clarissa Rizal sued the luxury retailer in April. In addition to violating the copyright, they said Nieman Marcus violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act by misrepresenting the coat as an Alaska Native craft. 

In a joint filing in federal court, both sides say they’ve “agreed to the key terms” of a settlement and are just working on details. They think they’ll have it worked out by Jan. 29.

SHI President Rosita Worl responded to a request for comment by email. She didn’t share any particulars about the settlement.

“We are grateful for the amount of public attention this lawsuit and issue have received,” she said. “One of our goals was to put a national spotlight on this issue, and the widespread interest in this story indicates to us that the public is as concerned as we are about protecting our cultural heritage.” 

Attorneys representing Nieman Marcus and a luxury brand based in Germany called MyTheresa.com that’s also a defendant could not immediately be reached for comment.

For unrelated reasons, Nieman Marcus declared bankruptcy in May, then worked its way out in September