Two big names in fashion brands are having a slugging match in the courts - Gucci, the maker of expensive upmarket handbags is alleging trademark infringement by Guess, the maker of less-expensive though not really down-market handbags. Gucci is alleging infringement of a whole range of their design marks, including a green and red stripe design, a square G, the designer’s name in flowing script and a diamond pattern with repeating interlocking Gs. They’re asking for US$124 million in damages. If that seems like a lot of handbags, it is. Gucci alleges that 1,495 Guess products infringed. Of course, it is not just limited to handbags - footwear, jewellery, fashion items of all kinds are in dispute.
Apart from an attraction for the fashionistas, the case raises some interesting points;
Guess accuses Gucci of “sitting on its rights” for seven years. The products have co-existed in the marketplace for some time.
The Guess products sell for a lot less than the Gucci products and on that basis alone are arguably unlikely to be confused - they are aimed at quite different market segments. Guess produced some market surveys to show this. Do they actually deceive?
Was there a deliberate “scheme” to deceive?
There has been some heavy hitting in the evidence stages of the case, with Gucci trying to prove a scheme of deliberate knock-offs by Guess. Guess’s CEO was cross-examined for four hours. If Gucci does manage to prove a lack of good faith by Guess, that will probably put the win in their court. Guess continues to argue otherwise: “Gucci uses leather, Guess uses plastic.”
The case is Gucci America v. Guess Inc., 09-4373, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). IPKat’s report is here.