We’ve been reviewing with interest the Gucci v Guess law suit which has come to an end in the USA after 3 years. In 2009, Gucci filed against Guess, alleging that Guess designs or marks infringed on five Gucci trademarks. Seeking an injunction and $120 million in damages, Gucci have only been granted injunctive relief and a small fraction of the damages sought. So where did it all go wrong for Gucci, and what issues does this raise about brands and trade marks?
If a brand deliberately copies something to confuse a customer into thinking this is a different brand, this is an infringement. And as Gucci and Guess are both fashion retailers, it’s clear that they’re aiming at similar markets. But the differentiator is the price and the class of goods. Gucci is well known as a luxury goods provider, and Guess is more mainstream. So it was argued in Court that by Guess using a similar green-red-green stripe on some of its luggage, and a repeating the ‘GG’ pattern of a pair of inward facing, inverted ‘Gs’, that customers buying the items would be clever enough to know they were either buying Gucci or Guess depending on the price. So there was no confusion so no case to answer. Guess couldn’t be held accountable for other people looking at an item that a customer had bought and was wearing, and ‘thinking’ that it was a Gucci product, the brand is only accountable to the customer.
So it seems that the relatively small amount of damages have been rewarded largely due to the perceived nature of Guess’s bad faith in adopting and using similar branding to Gucci on some of its products, rather than the act of doing so. There are other reasons which are highlighted in the report, but it goes to show the importance of brands and trademarks, and how organisations are prepared to fight for them.
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