More than 40 brands and retailers across a range of price points, including Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s and from Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga to Tory Burch, J. Crew and Urban Outfitters, were cited in Forever 21’s updated complaint against Gucci, arguing several trademarks covering the house’s blue and red as well as green and red stripe designs should be canceled.
Forever 21 pointed to more than 130 examples of apparel being sold by a range of third parties, none of which are involved in the lawsuit, to show a California federal court last week that not only does its use of striped elements on apparel and accessories not infringe Gucci’s trademarks, but that the subject stripes are used too widely to even maintain such legal protection.
“All of the Gucci registrations feature three parallel stripes colored blue-red-blue or green-red-green,” Forever 21 pointed out in a new complaint filed last week. “Many clothing and accessory items adorned with decorative stripes colored blue-red-blue or green-red-green are sold by countless third parties. Gucci should not be allowed to claim that Gucci, alone, has a monopoly on all blue-red-blue or green-red-green striped clothing and accessory items.”
Considering Gucci has allegedly sent Forever 21 cease-and-desist letters regarding a number of items featuring two-tone stripes, the chain added that it’s unlikely shoppers will be “confused” by the products and think that they may be in some way affiliated with or endorsed by Gucci.
Forever 21 said it “has not caved” to Gucci’s demands, and urged the court to undo the trademarks at issue and rule that there has been no infringement.
A Gucci spokesman was largely dismissive of Forever 21’s renewed effort, but said the house has no intention of backing down.
“The amended complaint is merely a longer version of Forever 21’s spurious first filing and underlines the extent to which Forever 21 will go to persist in its predatory business model, built on consumer deception and confusion,” the spokesman said. “However, it does nothing to deter Gucci from its unwavering commitment to the enforcement and protection of its renowned trademarks and brand identity.”
The case goes back to early summer, when Forever 21 preemptively sued Gucci to undermine its trademarks after receiving multiple cease-and-desist demands.
Gucci’s stripes, referred to by the company as “webbing,” have long been incorporated into the brand and the first of now 14 protected designs was registered in 1963. The design element has seen a resurgence at the brand under the leadership of creative director Alessandro Michele, being used on bags, shoes, dresses, jackets and even suiting.
Gucci hit back in August with counterclaims of infringement, dilution and unfair competition, and pushed for the outright dismissal of the allegations and the cancellation effort, arguing the complaint simply didn’t meet the required legal standard.
A judge subsequently sided with Gucci and dismissed Forever 21’s suit, noting “the court is skeptical that plaintiff has sufficiently alleged facts to support its claims for cancellation based on lack of secondary meaning, aesthetic functionality and genericism.”
Forever 21 was given the opportunity to amend its complaint with further support of its allegations and arguments. Gucci has until early December to again seek dismissal of the complaint.
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