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Gucci Loses Trademark Infringement Case Against Guess in France

Another country, another verdict in the ongoing legal battle between the two brands.
On the left, a sneaker from Guess; on the right, a sneaker from Gucci. 

On the left, a sneaker from Guess; on the right, a sneaker from Gucci. 

Gucci has been accusing Guess of trademark violations for years, and on Friday the Court of Paris reached a decision in the matter that has already been addressed in Italian and American courts. 

The French court ruled in Guess's favor, finding no trademark infringement, no counterfeiting and no unfair competition between the luxury Italian label and American mall brand. Gucci's request for €55 million (about $62 million USD) in damages was denied and instead the company was ordered to pay Guess €30,000 about ($34,000 USD). The court also nullified Gucci's trademark of three of its "G" logos. In a statement, a representative for Gucci responded saying the company strongly disagrees with the verdict and "will certainly and immediately bring an appeal against the decision."

This marks Guess's second victory against Gucci so far. However, in 2012, a New York court ruled that Guess was guilty of copying four of the five trademarked logos Gucci addressed in its claim. According to the judge's decision in that case, the logos in question were the following:

1) the green-red-green Stripe mark
2) the repeating GG pattern
3) the diamond motif trade dress, which is the repeating GG pattern with a pair of inverted Gs in each corner rendered in a brown/beige color combination,
4) the stylized G design mark
5) the script Gucci design mark

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In a dramatic court case that involved tears and shady e-mails, Guess only ended up having to pay $4.7 million in damages, which was nothing compared to the $124 million Gucci was seeking and small change when you consider that Guess made nearly $2.7 billion in revenue in 2011. 

Two major points weakened Gucci's case and contributed to the small payout. First, the judge noted that Gucci could not have been ignorant of Guess's designs until it finally filed the case in 2009, especially since both brands had similar advertising budgets and stores near each other, often in the same mall. (Guess was founded in 1981 and started producing the designs in question around 1995.) And secondly, the judge ruled Guess had diluted Gucci's logos, not counterfeiting them, saying, "courts have uniformly restricted trademark counterfeiting claims to those situations where entire products have been copied stitch-for-stitch."

Only a year after the New York court case concluded, Italy reached its own decision on the matter, but this time the claim was brought by Guess, seeking to nullify three of Gucci's registered trademarks in Milan. The court ruled in Guess's favor and cancelled Gucci's trademark of the diamond pattern, G logo and “Flora” pattern. The court also ruled that Guess’s Quattro G-diamond pattern was not derived from Gucci's double-G. Gucci was unsurprisingly livid, and in a statement described Guess's designs as “unlawful and parasitic free-riding on Gucci’s trademark and, in general, its brand image.” Gucci did have a victory in court in 2013, however, when China ruled that Guess was guilty of trademark infringement and unfair competition activities in the country. 

Gucci appealed the decision in Italy, and in a statement released Saturday in response to the French court's decision, the company quoted a statement from the Court of Appeal of Milan from September 2014, in which it said that "Guess’s 'constant imitative attitude towards Gucci’s motifs' is clear and that Guess's initiative … in many cases is aimed at a systematic and massive exploitation of [Gucci’s] initiative and creativity.'"

On Friday, Guess co-founder and CEO Paul Marciano expressed his frustration with the court cases in a statement on the French ruling, and even called out François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Gucci parent company Kering, for wasting his time. “For six years now, Gucci has filed case after case against Guess and lost time after time. On top of that, Gucci has lost some trademarks in the Italian case and now some in France as well. I continue to believe strongly that all these legal battles are a complete waste of time and this energy and money should be focused on business. Obviously, FH Pinault doesn’t see it that way.” 

It seems the animosity between the two companies is at an all-time high, and with Gucci set to appeal in France, there is no apparent end in sight to the courtroom drama.