This is juicier than an episode of Law & Order.
Guess’ CEO Paul Marciano took the stand yesterday to defend his brand against Gucci’s knockoff allegations and my, did things get interesting. Marciano, who was questioned for a full four hours, insisted that Guess hadn’t copied Gucci specifically, but had created designs inspired by a multitude of brands that were in fashion at the time, WWD is reporting. When asked about his brand’s diamond-logoed “G” pattern, similar to a Gucci pattern, Marciano said, “This kind of pattern is common in the world of fashion and it’s not particular to Gucci.”
“What I understand here, which is very frequent [in fashion], is an inspiration to create an original bag of G’s with the same components,” he added. “That’s what design is.”
Okay, fine. Except here’s the thing–Guess’ lawyer, Louis Ederer, somehow got his hands on emails between Guess buyers and employees at the company’s footwear provider, Marc Fisher, and they do not help Guess’ case. Apparently, the emails make several references to Gucci product spanning from 1995 to 2008, and at one point even indicate that Marc Fisher was sending Gucci fabric samples to Guess’ fabric supplier, so that it could replicate the coloring for its logo patterns for shoes. Oops.
Marciano insisted he had no knowledge of those emails, but said he was “embarrassed” by the similarities between Guess’ Mette and Melrose sneakers and Gucci sneakers (comparison above left).
The real culprit here, after all, might be Guess’ footwear manufacturer Marc Fisher. The company has a well-documented past of shady business practices, and has received four cease-and-desist letters from Jimmy Choo, Coach, Adidas and Yves Saint Laurent claiming it was knocking off their designs.
Apparently, Marciano sent an angry letter to Marc Fisher back in 2008 after learning of Jimmy Choo’s cease-and-desist against the company. Fisher fired back that ““Jimmy Choo is a bully in the industry,” but relented that firm was “adjusting” to the “new environment” and that it would put in place outside counsel to see if it was “infringing” on any other designs. Gucci alleges that no one from Guess followed up with the footwear provider since then, and that the company continued to knockoff Gucci’s designs.
Marc Fisher also made news back in December when the company countered Derek Lam’s very legitimate accusation of copying his design (just check out this comparison), with a statement saying Lam’s design was not “iconic,” and that there could be “no confusion between the two.” Riiiiight.
Marc Fisher’s shady practices aside, Guess still has a compelling case: that Gucci waited over ten years to bring suit. “I think the lawsuit is wrong,” Marciano said before leaving court. “I truly believe that if this is something Gucci was genuinely concerned with, they would have acted within days, everywhere. Are you telling me today that suddenly you realize what’s happened in 1995?”
And the embarrassing reason for Gucci’s stall is that their original in-house lawyer had forgotten to renew his bar membership, so he was ineligible to practice law. Oops again.
Can we get a live stream from the courtroom?