The Guess v Gucci fiasco has brought into question judges’ judgements
Watching a repeat of the popular TV panel show QI the other night, I was quite interested to learn about the hypothetical characters English lawyers use to test the validity of a claim in court. From a ‘precocious toddler’ and a ‘fertile octogenarian’ to a ‘moron in a hurry’, they exist to provide a handy ‘man on the street’ sense check. Those involved in the 4-year long cases that were resolved this week between Gucci and Guess, might have come to a conclusion much quicker if either New York or Milanese courts had the benefit of these stereotypes – after all, even a moron in a hurry could see the similarities between the products in question.
One thing seemingly overlooked in this particular disagreement is the difference between owning the rights to the letter G and owning the rights to a type of design. Understandably trademarking a letter, number, cheese and pickle sandwich or the entire sky in any form is pretty unreasonable and not allowed. Christian Louboutin somehow managed to trademark a colour (when applied to the sole of a shoe) during its epic case against YSL but on the whole these attempts don’t get off the ground.
It’s where the idea or design is more intangible that the problems occur. When does ‘inspired by’ become copying and copying become fakery? We all know about the sometimes dodgy, sometimes pretty impressive, sometimes downright hilarious fakes that flood the bustling markets of the Far East that are a nuisance, but when one big player is so obviously ‘inspired by’ another, there should be some provision in law to quickly assess any claim.
Stealing ideas is as bad as stealing identities, but without a law degree on such things, the answers aren’t easy to come by. But even if such disputes are too complex to judge on with the current legal system, even a moron in a hurry can see that the copiers should at the very least be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.