Anyone who has walked into a Guess store in the past four years has probably noticed that the company’s handbags resemble the iconic Gucci pattern. Sure, both brands start with the letter “G,” but does that really give Guess the right to use a trademark that is strikingly similar to the luxury brand?
According to a federal judge in Manhattan, the answer is no. On May 21, 2012, WWD reported that Gucci won its trademark battle against Guess Inc., but Gucci did not receive the damage award that it was expecting. Gucci claimed that it suffered $221 million in damages, but it was only awarded $4.7 million in combined damages from Guess and its footwear licensee Marc Fisher Footwear. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote that Gucci had proven its dilution claims under the Lanham Act, which is the primary federal trademark statute in the
United States, and limited Guess’ use of the Quattro G pattern in brown and beige colorways. However, Scheindlin rejected Gucci’s counterfeiting claim, noting “courts have uniformly restricted trademark counterfeiting claims to those situations where entire products have been copied stitch-for-stitch.”
In an eloquent twist, Scheindlin quoted Oscar Wilde, who described fashion as “a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” According to WWD, Scheindlin wrote, “With the instant disputes now resolved, and with Gucci’s entitlement to the relief noted above, it is my hope that this ugliness will be limited to the runway and shopping floor, rather than spilling over into the courts.”