Gucci Assails Guess for 'Studied Imitations' at Trial
By Don Jeffrey-Apr 19, 2012 12:00 AM ET
Gucci America Inc., (GES) the maker of luxury clothing and accessories, is scheduled to present final arguments in federal court in a lawsuit claiming that Guess? Inc. copied its trademarked designs.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin has been conducting a nonjury trial of Gucci’s infringement claims since March 28 in Manhattan. Both sides are set to make closing statements today.
Gucci, a unit of Paris-based PPR (PP), sued Guess in 2009 claiming that the Los Angeles-based clothing maker was selling apparel and accessories in stores and online with logos that are “studied imitations of the Gucci trademarks.” These include a green-and-red stripe design, a square G, the designer’s name in flowing script and a diamond pattern with repeating interlocking G’s.
“It’s about a massive, complicated scheme to knock off Gucci’s best-known and iconic designs,” Louis Ederer, a lawyer for Gucci, said in opening arguments March 28. He said that $221 million worth of Guess products infringed Gucci’s designs.
Guess said in court papers that Gucci has no right to claim infringement because it “sat on its rights” for at least seven years before suing. Guess also said Gucci’s surveys failed to prove that consumers would be confused by the designs.
“The whole idea of trademark infringement is one of consumer confusion,” according to Joseph Saphia, an intellectual- property attorney with Wiggin & Dana LLP in New York who isn’t involved in the suit. “If there isn’t consumer confusion in the marketplace, what difference does it make?” Saphia said yesterday in a phone interview.
‘Never Be Confused’
Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Guess, said in his opening argument that 99 percent of the Guess products alleged to be infringing “could never be confused with Gucci.” He said many Guess products sell for less than $100 to young women who can’t afford luxury goods like Gucci’s, which can be priced in the thousands of dollars.
Gucci is seeking monetary damages and other assessments totaling more than $124 million, according to court papers.
The defendants also include Guess’s exclusive footwear licensee, Marc Fisher Footwear, Max Leather Group and Swank Inc.
Guess Chief Executive Officer Paul Marciano testified last week. Born in Morocco and raised in Marseilles, France, he and his brothers founded Guess in California in 1981. The company’s early success came from marketing jeans.
PPR fell 4.90 euros, or 3.9 percent, to 122.45 euros yesterday in Paris trading. Guess fell 3 cents to $29.88 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The case is Gucci America v. Guess Inc., 09-4373, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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