Duck Head entrepreneurs sued for $1M

Complaint alleges trio that aimed to revive storied brand owe royalties

An effort to revive the well-known Duck Head clothing brand in Nashville — the city in which it grew to prominence — has apparently flatlined, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

The company that owns the Duck Head trademark filed a $1 million infringement lawsuit on Monday against three Nashville entrepreneurs who were attempting to restore the historic clothing brand.

Duck Head formed in Nashville in 1865 — but the mallard trademark was sold two years ago to Virginian Ross Sternheimer for $2.65 million after its then-parent company, Goody’s, went bankrupt.

Last year, Sternheimer enlisted Nashville entrepreneurs Bill Reese, Kenneth Markanich and Scott McFadden to manufacture Duck Head clothing. Reese, Markanich and McFadden operated under the name Nashville Apparel Co. Inc.

But it took less than a year for business to go sour. The lawsuit claims NAC stopped paying royalties to the trademark owner earlier this year. Eventually, the local manufacturers became insolvent and the agreement to sublicense the Duck Head brand was terminated.

In addition to nearly $1 million in unpaid royalties, Duck Head also claims the Nashville company illegally sold merchandise at deep discounts — and they continue to operate the website and social media related to the brand.

Duck Head, represented by local firm McKellar Hyde PLC, included an injunction request in the lawsuit, asking NAC to return all clothing and goods back and turn over control of the website domains and social media.

The suit also claims the Nashville investors used NAC and the Duck Head relationship to pay off debts related to another business, Eagle Dry Goods, rather than pay royalties. The defendants didn’t return phone messages left Monday.

A hearing on the emergency motion for injunction is set for Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Nashville.