Fashion conglomerates continue to amass widespread legal protections, landing at the top of a recent list of active trademark-filing entities.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s approach to trade is proving interesting. After swearing off the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11 remaining nations party to the trade treaty will move ahead without the U.S. As for the North American Free Trade Agreement, industry bodies have strong words for how it should be handled by the Trump administration.
And not to be overshadowed by “covfefe,” Gucci made headlines this week for taking a bit too much “inspiration” from iconic fashion force Dapper Dan.
Fashion’s Focus on Trademarks
Fashion brands have not backed down in their widespread efforts to gain legal monopolies over their names, logos and other branding elements. As set forth in a new report by Trademark Now, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE; Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brand Inc.; VF Corp.; Gucci; Balenciaga; Yves Saint Laurent’s parent Kering, and Compagnie Financière Richemont, which owns Cartier, Chloé and Azzedine Alaïa, top the list of most active trademark-filers — in that order — in terms of luxury goods and apparel brands.
According to the report, titled “Trademarks, Now: Trademark Industry Review Q1 2017,” luxury goods-related intellectual property protection is at a high with the aforementioned clothing, apparel and luxury goods companies applying for nearly 6,500 trademarks around the world during 2016.
Also in play: a more globally diversified playing field — both in terms of competition and in companies’ vying for intellectual property protection. China took the top spot in terms of trademark filing activity; the Beijing-based intellectual property office accepted 3.7 million trademark applications in 2016, more than seven times the number of applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This comes as conglomerates like Kering continue their focus on the Far East.
A few other notable placeholders on the Trademark Now list of aggressive trademark-filers: Apple, which took the 15th spot, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba at 18, Japanese cosmetics group Shiseido at 31, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. at 42 and Amazon at 50.
While President Trump is busy tweeting about “covfefe” and pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership is set to move ahead without the U.S. and revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement are under way, much to the dismay of fashion industry organizations.
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers in mid-May, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he triggered a 90-day consultation period with Congress and the American public, meaning that the renegotiation of NAFTA, which is directly tied to $1.1. trillion in trade — and 14 million U.S. jobs — between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, will begin on Aug. 16.
In his letter, Lighthizer said NAFTA needs modernization for digital trade, intellectual property rights, labor and environmental standards, rules for state-owned enterprises and food safety standards. But a group of top chief executive officers — including Steven Rendle, ceo of VF Corp. — has urged the Trump administration to limit its changes to the trade deal.
The move comes shortly after the heads of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association and U.S. Fashion Industry Association sent a similar letter to Lighthizer urging him to tread lightly on the 23-year-old pact.
“We agree that the agreement should be updated to reflect today’s business reality and better prepare for future trade patterns,” the AAFA and others asserted in their letter. “We ask for support from the administration to ensure that renegotiation will ‘do no harm’ to the successful supply chains that we rely on today.”
As for the TPP, which stands to offer more than just lower tariffs for signatories, it is not dead without the U.S. In fact, only relatively small changes, such as the need for ratification by countries accounting for 85 percent of the 12 members’ gross domestic product, will need to be implemented for the 11 remaining countries to move ahead. And if this does occur, trade analysts suspect that membership is likely to grow as the TPP offers benefits in terms of intellectual property protection, digital trade, and environmental protection.
Gucci’s Overly “Inspired” Cruise Collection
Gucci drew widespread criticism online following its 2018 cruise collection show last week, with social media users pointing out the similarity between a jacket that hit its runway in Florence and one that Harlem-based hustler-turned-fashion force Dapper Dan created in the early Eighties. Daniel Day — aka Dapper Dan — rose to fame thanks to his makeshift designer logo creations, the same garments that landed him in an array of legal trouble with brands, including Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, which did not take kindly to his use of counterfeit logo-laden fabrics.
Now, 30 years later, the designer’s influence has made itself known by way of a fur jacket with overexaggerated sleeves bearing the Gucci interlocking “G” print, which bears similarity to one that Day created using Louis Vuitton’s famed Toile Monogram print.
A spokesman for Gucci provided the following comment: “Gucci’s ‘new Renaissance’ Cruise 2018 fashion show included references to periods of revitalization spanning many different eras in particular the European Renaissance, the Seventies and the Eighties. The collection also saw a continuation of Alessandro Michele’s exploration of faux-real culture with a series of pieces playing on the Gucci logo and monogram, including a puff-sleeved bomber jacket from the Eighties in an homage to the work of the renowned Harlem tailor Daniel ‘Dapper Dan’ Day and in celebration of the culture of that era in Harlem.”
While the brand noted that it has attempted to contact Day to collaborate to no avail, it has not escaped an array of scathing press alleging that it has taken “inspiration” a step too far this time and that the jacket actually amounts to cultural misappropriation.
Julie Zerbo is the founder of The Fashion Law