GIANNI VERSACE ASKS JUDGE TO TAKE ACTION
Byline: Vicki M. Young
NEW YORK — Gianni Versace SpA has asked a Manhattan federal court judge to hold an individual claiming to be a relative in contempt a second time in connection to a prior order issued in Gianni’s favor and bar the individual from using the famed family name in connection to goods or services.
The latest legal salvo is part of an ongoing dispute dating back to 1996. Three years ago, Gianni obtained a preliminary injunction barring Alfredo Versace, a New York designer, from using the Versace name as a trademark. Alfredo was using the Versace name on apparel and accessories, including jeans.
The federal court judge in the case ruled that use of the Versace name created a “likelihood of appreciable customer confusion” with the marks of the Milan-based design house. The judge also barred Alfredo from copying the trade dress — the way a product looks or is presented — of Gianni’s jeans. He was allowed use of his name, but with certain restrictions.
On March 6, 2000, Alfredo was held in contempt for violating the preliminary injunction. According to court documents filed earlier this month, but not available until last week, Alfredo is alleged to be in further contempt of the injunction through continuing infringing activity in watches, jeans, a new men’s wear business venture and even “Versace” branded cigarettes sold in Russia and Macau. The documents said some items were either sold in the U.S. or overseas and then shipped here, all in violation of the injunction.
A concern is customer confusion. Exhibits submitted to the court show instances, either on Web sites selling the offending merchandise or on receipts of goods sold, where an Alfredo product is referred to as just “Versace.”
Court documents filed by the law firm of Phillips Nizer Benjamin Krim & Ballon, representing Gianni, said that Alfredo “continues to deceive purchasers about his relationship to the family of Gianni Versace.” An affidavit specified that advertising used to sell Alfredo’s product said it was “from Alfredo Versace of the legendary Italian designing family.” Legal papers from Phillips Nizer said that Alfredo has been promoting sales by “falsely claiming he is the late Gianni Versace’s first cousin or other relative.”
Neither Alfredo nor his attorney, Brian Holzberg, could be reached for comment on the latest legal maneuver. Holzberg is Alfredo’s fifth legal counsel in the case.
In an interview with WWD three years ago in connection with the preliminary injunction, Alfredo said he and Gianni were cousins but couldn’t specify the familial connection. He noted they were both born in Como, Italy.