​Ivanka Trump ripped off shoe designs, lawsuit alleges

Last Updated Jun 23, 2016 3:54 PM EDT

Ivanka Trump has stepped into another fashion no-no.

The daughter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is facing a lawsuit from high-end shoe maker Aquazzura, which has filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court that alleges she knocked off its popular "Wild Thing" sandal, a stiletto-heeled confection topped with a tassel. While both shoes share similar features and a poppy-red color, one major difference can be found in their prices: Trump's sandals cost $145, compared with $785 for Aquazzura's version.

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Lawsuit

The Wild Thing sandal has gained fans among fashion bloggers and celebrities such as Solange Knowles, with the fashion site PopSugar calling the shoe "the It shoe of the summer." It's not the first time that Ivanka Trump has landed in hot water over her fashion designs, with Mystique Footwear alleging in a 2012 lawsuit that she had ripped off two of its sandal designs. While fashion designs aren't currently protected by the U.S. Copyright Act, designers can protect some aspects, such as unique graphics or prints.

"Seeking the same success Aquazzura experienced but without having to put in the hard creative work, Defendants resorted to knocking off Plaintiff's popular designs," the lawsuit alleges.

Manufacturer Marc Fisher, which makes the shoes for Trump and is named in the lawsuit, said on behalf of its company and Ivanka Trump that the lawsuit is "baseless."

"This is a baseless lawsuit aimed at generating publicity," Marc Fisher CFO Matthew Burris said in a statement. "The shoe in question is representative of a trending fashion style, is not subject to intellectual property law protection and there are similar styles made by several major brands. The lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against the claim."

The lawsuit highlights a grey area in the fashion industry, which has been lobbying for protection under the Copyright Act. Currently, fashion designs can't be protected because they are considered functional items by the law, which says that people can't own exclusive rights to manufacture such items (otherwise, someone may have claimed the right to make forks or plates exclusively, for instance). Still, some design elements can be protected by the law, such as sculptural elements on a shoe or graphic designs.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court last month agreed to hear a case about cheerleaders' uniforms that will decide whether additional fashion elements -- such as colors and stripes -- can be protected, which could change how fashion is treated under the law.

But in the meantime, Aquazzuro is hoping to receive a court injunction that will bar Trump from selling the Hettie sandal, as well as providing damages and an accounting of profits from the alleged knockoff.

Still, Trump isn't alone in creating a shoe that bears a resemblance to Aquazzura's sandal. One site lists more than a dozen apparent knockoffs from retailers including Banana Republic and Steve Madden. All of them sell for a fraction of the Wild Thing's price tag.