The number of high-street shops bringing legal action against their rivals for copying their designs has risen four-fold since the start of the recession, according to top copyright infringement lawyers. While stores have long looked to the catwalk for inspiration – top designer’s collections barely make it down the runways of London and Paris before lookalikes appear on the rails of mainstream stores – such widespread copying of high-street rivals is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A., a French corporation located in Paris, that manufactures luxury luggage, handbags, and accessories, commenced this action against Haute Diggity Dog, LLC, a Nevada corporation that manufactures and sells pet products nationally, alleging trademark infringement, trademark dilution, copyright infringement, and related statutory and common law violations. Haute Diggity Dog manufactures, among other things, plush toys on which dogs can chew, which, it claims, parody famous trademarks on luxury products, including those of Louis Vuitton Malletier. The particular Haute Diggity Dog chew toys in question here are small imitations of handbags that are labeled “Chewy Vuiton” and that mimic Louis Vuitton Malletier’s LOUIS VUITTON handbags.
In 2009 Gucci sued Guess for infringing on five Gucci trademarks, including the use of similar logos. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Guess has been subject to 12 copyright complaints over the last ten years. Guess used many of Gucci’s distinctive marks, including a green and red stripe used on handbags, the repeating, inverted GG pattern, and the company’s use of brown and beige colours, mostly used in conjunction with diamond shape patterns. Of course, Gucci came out on top, but not in the way they had hoped for. Initially asking for $221m in damages, the judge told Gucci they were only entitled to an accounting of profits and limited the damages. In the end, Gucci only received $4.7m.Guess was also barred from using most of their designs ever again, primarily the Quattro G patterns in brown and beige colors and the CRG stripe.
Converse filed a lawsuit against 31 companies, claiming that their iconic Chuck Taylor sneaker had been copied by brands like Ed Hardy, Walmart, H&M and more. The company, now owned by Nike, claims that copyright infringement has occurred as well as unfair competition (basically, when the customer can’t tell the difference between the fakes and the original). They are seeking compensation and also demanding that the retailers destroy all the imitation Chuck Taylors on the market.
These lawsuits date back to the 1930s, when Madeleine Vionnet and Coco Chanel filed a suit in Paris against dressmaker Suzanne Laniel, claiming that she was copying their designs to sell to her clients. In this case, the French court ruled in favor of the two designers, stating that “the dress models, by reason of the choice of colors and materials and their designing, partake of the character of real works of art and therefore come under the special legislation which forbids imitation and plagiarism by artists and writers.”