Litigation seems to be one trend that fashion companies aren’t planning to get tired of anytime soon.
Kering’s Gucci and Puma are both fighting Forever 21 over its copy-catting ways, Adidas isn’t taking kindly to a “Skecherized” version of its popular Stan Smith sneaker and Louis Vuitton is taking what’s probably a long shot effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to take up its battle against canvas totes parodying some of its most recognizable bags.
Despite being an industry that subsists almost entirely on “inspiration,” fashion companies, particularly those on the luxury end with the support of conglomerates behind them, are working and spending to protect what they see as the iconic elements of their products.
The spar over stripes between Gucci and Forever 21 could result in a particularly important ruling for brands looking to stamp out, or at least limit, the ability of fast-fashion retailers to churn out what can often be deemed as copies of luxury items within weeks of their runway debuts.
But while Gucci is accusing Forever 21 of “piracy,” the frequently sued chain is arguing that stripes in general are far too common to be trademarked, and it’s pushing for the total invalidation of the numerous trademarks covering Gucci’s stripes.
With both sides having substantial skin in the game, this court battle could go on for years, unless an out-of-court settlement is reached, which is very common in intellectual property disputes.
A case between Adidas and Skechers over the former’s nearly 50-year-old Stan Smith sneaker seems unlikely to end in a settlement, and a ruling against Skechers could be a coup for the German athleticwear company, which is one of the most fervent protectors of its intellectual property.
Skechers has already admitted that it set out to create a “Sketcherized” version of the Stan Smith and its argument that its copying was somehow “legal” hasn’t so far been enough to sway a California judge, who recently rejected its attempt to escape Adidas’ lawsuit.
Should the judge side with Adidas, it will give brands even more legal support when they want to claim a design, even a white leather sneaker, as their own.