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.”
In January Burberry filed a complaint against a group of Chinese internet counterfeiters for use of 22 distinct types of goods bearing Burberry trademarks. Defendants, owners of websites such as yesburberryvision.com and buyburberry.com, not only failed to appear in court but they also failed to answer Burberry’s complaint resulting in an award of $100 million to Burberry as well as any money held by Paypal Inc. Burberry was also awarded a permanent injunction transfering ownership of the domain names to them allowing them to prevent others from doing business with the defendants.
According to WWD, Hudson + Broad, a visual merchandising and branding firm, has filed suit in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court against J.C. Penney Co. Inc. The major retailer must answer the complaint, filed on April 26th, within 21 days. The suit alleges breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets and is focused around the oversized Plexiglas LED squares that Hudson + Broad designed as merchandise icons for J.C. Penney’s campaign named “Fair and Square.” According to James Maharg, president of Hudson + Broad, “Top level executives at J.C. Penney, including those who report directly to chief executive officer Ron Johnson, asked Hudson + Broad to develop a unique fixture with the promise that the proprietary product, if accepted, would only be ordered from Hudson + Broad and that the concept would not be misappropriated and bid out to other manufacturers.” Maharg further told WWD, “Yet J.C. Penney is doing exactly what it promised it would not do — which is a huge disappointment from a company claiming ‘Fair and Square’ as its image.”
It’s always in style to obey New York State labor laws, especially when you’re a famed designer like Alexander Wang. In early March 2012, 56-year-old Wenyu Lu, Wang’s former employee, sued the designer and his brother, Dennis Wang, for allegedly making him work 16-hour days without overtime.
A spokeswoman for the fashion brand told WWD, “The company takes its obligations to comply with the law very seriously, including the relevant wage and hour regulations, the payment of overtime to eligible employees and having a safe working environment for all of our employees. We will vehemently defend any allegations to the contrary.”
Wenyu Lu claims that he and more than 15 other employees were forced to work in an unventilated, windowless 200-square-foot room, located in Chinatown at 386 Broadway.
Lu’s attorney has stated that roughly 30 of Wang’s former co-workers have been added to the case and are each demanding $50 million.
Lu claims that he has suffered an eye injury and kidney stones because he was forced to work 84 hours a week. He also alleges that he passed out at his station after working 25 hours without a break. Lu’s lawyer, Ming Hai, claims that Lu was fired on February 16, 2012 after applying for worker’s compensation for his work-related injuries.
“Bad labor conditions are everywhere in the Asian garment community. It’s horrible,” said Hai, noting that there are more than 20 garment factories in Chinatown.
According to WWD, most factory owners tend to settle disputes for fear of bad press. But Wang might be able to argue that New York State’s employment at will doctrine enables him to terminate an employee at any time for any reason. However, this will depend on what is written in the contract between Wang and his employees.
Typically, the employment at will doctrine only applies when an employee is hired for an indefinite term. Even where there is a written contract for a definite time period, however, other contractual provisions might render the employment relationship terminable at-will. For example, if Lu’s employment contract provides that either party could terminate the contract by giving notice to the other party, this could arguably enable Wang to fire Lu for any reason.
Although New York State supports the policy that employers should be free to make their own business judgments without court interference, there are many exceptions to the employment at will doctrine.
For instance, it is a violation to terminate employees for discriminatory reasons or because those employees exercised their rights, including filing for worker’s compensation.
Even if the contract between Wang and Lu enables Wang to fire him without cause, Wang does not have a right to fire Lu because he applied for worker’s compensation. Because Wang’s employees are also suing him for breach of agreement and unjust enrichment, he will not be able to use the employment at will doctrine as a shield to block every claim against him.
According to WWD, François-Henri Pinault shot back today against accusations that his luxury group supports plagiarism at a press conference following the publication of PPR’s 2011 results. Pinault was addressing the accusations Louboutin made to French daily Libération, where Louboutin compared PPR to counterfeiters and claimed the group was trying to destroy his independent label. Pinault responded to the accusations by indicating his confidence that Yves Saint Laurent would win the right to continue selling shoes with red soles in the ongoing case against Christian Louboutin. According to the PPR chairman and chief executive officer, “We won the first proceedings in quite precise, clear terms and I am therefore very confident with regard to this case, even if I regret it, because these are two great houses and I think we have better things to do than to fight in court over a question of color.”
Old Navy has responded to Kim Kardashian’s lawsuit, filed last summer, alleging that The Gap-owned retailer used a Kardashian look-a-like — a “Fauxdashian” as racked.com has dubbed model Melissa Molinaro — in its commercials. Old Navy’s retort? “What are you really worth these days?”
It doesn’t take much energy to peel off names of entertainers or entrepreneurs who share the last names of other famous and/or successful relatives. And, so what if they used the connection as a springboard? Isn’t it the right of any one of us to use our own name? Well, not if you are Laura Buccellati. The grandniece of Mario Buccellati, the company founder of Bucellati, the upscale jewelry and watch maker, is facing a trademark infringement lawsuit on December 23, brought by the company. Claiming trademark dilution, false designation of origin, unfair competition and unfair deceptive trade practices, the plaintiff is seeking injunctive relief, damages, attorney’s fees and investigatory costs. Read More
There is no doubt that Ralph Lauren has had a tremendous influence on American fashion. The New York Times reported that Al Roker, the weather anchor on the “Today” show on NBC, referred to Lauren as “America’s arbiter of taste and culture.” So how does the iconic designer continue to reinvent his classic and comfortable luxury brand?
According to him, “You copy. Forty-five years of copying, that’s why I’m here.”
Belal Amin Alsaidi, the owner of two stores in Petersburg, VA., was charged by the Federal grand jury in Richmond, VA with one count of conspiracy and three counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Alsaidi allegedly purchased ‘knock-off’ apparel and shoes from a seller in New York as merchandise for his stores in Virginia. The goods were allegedly ‘knock-offs’ for brands such as Christian Audiger, Nike, Ed Hardy, Coach, Lacoste, Timberland, Coogi and True Religion.
Trafficking in counterfeit goods is a serious criminal offense under Title 18 U.S.C. § 2320(a)(1) which states that “Whoever intentionally traffics or attempts to traffic in goods or services and knowingly uses a counterfeit mark on or in connection with such goods or services…the use of which is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, or to deceive, shall, if an individual, be fined not more than $2,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both…”
While the charges against Alsaidi still have to be proven at trial, he faces a maximum of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge under Title 18 U.S.C. § 371, and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a $2 million fine for each trafficking count under Title 18 U.S.C. §2320(a)(1). The indictment also seeks to seize the counterfeit items and the profits for any sales thereof.