Washington: Ivanka Trump must answer questions in a lawsuit over whether her company ripped off a rival's shoe design, as a judge rejected her claim that she's too busy as a "high-ranking government official" in the White House to sit for a deposition.
US District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan on Friday said Trump must spend two hours responding to questions about the design of a shoe sold by her company.
"Ms. Trump's public statements regarding active and comprehensive brand management lead to a reasonable inference that the shoe at issue would not have been released without her approval," Forrest said in a three-page order. "In such a situation, a deposition is appropriate."
Aquazzura Italia SRL sued Trump, her company IT Collection LLC and shoemaker Marc Fisher Holdings, claiming they illegally copied its pricey "Wild Thing" shoe in designing the Ivanka Trump "Hettie" model. Aquazzura wants to question Ivanka Trump before a trial, but her legal team asked Forrest to rule she doesn't have to testify.
Trump, whose White House title is "Assistant to the President of the United States," is too important and busy to testify, her lawyer, Darren Saunders, argued in a June 16 letter to the judge.
"The deposition of Ms. Trump would be an unnecessary distraction and would interfere with her ability to perform her duties at the White House," he wrote.
Trump also claimed she lacked relevant information about the shoes, which are sold with her name stamped on them in gold letters.
"I had no involvement in the conception, design, production or sale of the 'Hettie Shoe,"' Trump said June 16 in a declaration filed with the court. "My involvement was strictly limited to the final sign-off of each season's line after it was first reviewed and approved by the company's design team."
Trump's lawyers offered Abigail Klem, IT Collection's president, to answer Aquazzura's questions.
In her ruling, Forrest noted Trump's "competing professional obligations," limiting the deposition to two hours and ordering it be held in Washington. Forrest also extended deadlines in the case so Trump will have until the end of October to give her testimony.
Aquazzura's lawyers cited a 2012 interview with Footwear News in arguing that Trump shouldn't be permitted to minimize her role as a shoe designer.
"Individually, I focus not only on brand position and the direction of any given collection, but also on the individual product," Trump told the trade publication. "There's not a shoe I'm not intimately involved in designing."
Aquazzura claims Trump and Fisher intentionally designed the Hettie as a low-cost knockoff of Wild Thing, an Italian-made open-toed red suede sandal with four-inch heels, a fringed strap over the toes and ankle ties adorned with "flirty" tassels. Wild Thing sells for $785.
The Ivanka Trump Hettie also featured a fringed strap and tasseled ankle ties. It retailed for around $130.
The case is Aquazzura Italia SRL v. Trump, 16-cv-04782, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).