NEW YORK — Marc Fisher spent three more hours Wednesday rebutting allegations that his company infringed on Gucci’s trademarks when designing shoes for Guess Inc.
This story first appeared in the April 12, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The trial, which began two weeks ago in federal court here, pits Gucci against Guess and its exclusive licensee for footwear, Marc Fisher Footwear. Gucci, which is seeking $221 million in damages, alleges that the defendants infringed on its diamond-shaped logoed pattern, square “G” design and tri-striped motif.
Fisher, who wrapped up his testimony Wednesday, had until this point remained unemotional. But when his lawyer, Darren Saunders of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, recounted Gucci’s accusation that the defendants devised a “massive scheme” to knock-off its designs, he choked up.
“I don’t understand the allegation,” the chief executive officer said, his voice quavering as he explained that such a scheme would “jeopardize” his reputation, not to mention his family’s reputation.
“My family has been making shoes in this country probably longer than Guess exists,” he said, noting that the number of shoes Gucci claims infringed on its marks represent just 3 percent of all shoes Marc Fisher Footwear made in a four-year period.
Fisher, whose father founded Nine West in 1978, launched his own company in 2005. Guess was the brand’s first big footwear license. Within the first few years of its inception, the footwear vendor had a string of cease-and-desist letters sent by rivals like Coach Inc., Adidas, Yves Saint Laurent and Jimmy Choo, alleging trademark infringement.
Earlier in the day, Gucci attorney Louis Ederer of Arnold & Porter LLP brought this to light, calling the Guess shoes made by Marc Fisher “stitch for stitch” copies of its rivals’ shoes.
“We do reference and use vintage designs quite a bit in our industry,” Fisher said, adding that in certain cases, the allegedly infringing shoes were derived from looks Fisher had produced long before.
“So, Jimmy Choo knocked you off and then you knocked Jimmy Choo off?” Ederer said sarcastically.
Fisher explained that over a “50-year period of time,” many shoes turn out to be “tremendously similar.”
Earlier in the day, Ederer had unveiled a binder — which looked to be just a few inches shy of a foot — filled with photographs taken in Marc Fisher Footwear’s library of Gucci shoes. The binder of photos, which was handed over by Fisher during discovery, was filled with five years’ worth of Gucci shoes that it used for inspiration for its footwear.
Even though Fisher explained that the photos represented only a fraction of the shoes it has in its library, which is stocked with many different brands for “reference,” Ederer moved forward with a report he had on Fisher’s Gucci purchases over the last six to seven years.
In that period, the ceo rang up $75,000 in Gucci merchandise, which didn’t faze Fisher, but surprised the judge.
“I never saw a $2,000 pair of shoes. What do they look like?” Judge Shira Scheindlin said, pointing to a higher-priced item.
Ederer, who remarked that the item was a dress and not shoes, ended his examination with a bang.
“You find this case ridiculous, don’t you Mr. Fisher?” the lawyer said, after the ceo complained that he believed Gucci should have sent a cease-and-desist letter before filing a lawsuit.
“I don’t think anything that takes this much time and money out of my life is ridiculous,” Fisher said. “Gucci should have written me a letter. That’s what should have happened.”
The trial is set to wrap up before April 19.