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Intellectual Property Becomes Newest Brand Battlefield

It’s a small world, at least it is for trademarks and iconic product design.

Author: IF Research Dept/Friday, February 6, 2015/Categories: Legal Briefs, Markets Paid Only, Brands Paid Only

Intellectual property rights protection used to amount to registering one’s brand name is key countries and then policing factories where the product was being made to insure that no unauthorized goods were being made or doing customs inspections at the ports to feret out fakes.

Now its become a contentious squaring off of established brands against each other as everyone competes for global market share. The newest intellectual rights battles include Guess vs. Gucci over the right to use the letter “G” in its logo and Hanesbrand vs. Gildan Activewear saying that Gildan’s TEMPFX infringes on Hanesbrands' X-Temp trademark. In the athletic sector there has been numerous contests over design issues, most recently New Balance vs. Converse, Nike vs. three former designers and Converse vs. just about everyone. 

Here are some of the latest cases, what they’re fighting over and how they’ve been settled. There are lessons here for all brand owners.

The Gucci vs. Guess trademark challenge concluded in France on January 30, 2015 with a victory for Guess. The Court of Paris rejected every claim asserted by Gucci, finding no trademark infringement, no counterfeiting, and no unfair competition. 

The Court denied Gucci's request for €55 million in damages and, instead, Gucci was ordered by the court to pay Guess €30,000.
The Court also invalidated three of Gucci's "G" community and international trademarks, meaning Gucci cannot claim exclusive use to those marks any longer.

Hanesbrands (USA) filed a suit against Gildan Activewear (Canada). The lawsuit claims Gildan's use of TEMPFX infringes on Hanesbrands' X-Temp trademark. Hanesbrands alleges that although Gildan filed an application with the U.S. Patent Office to use TEMPFX in 2005 and 2009, the applications were abandoned.

New Balance (USA) kicked off a trademark action against Nike-owned Converse concerning its PF Flyers brand and the Converse trademark on Chuck Taylors. New Balance is asking the federal court in New York to cancel the Converse trademark, so that they may continue selling their version of the shoe. Last October, Converse filed a trademark action against 31 companies, notably not including New Balance, who they accused of producing knock-offs of their Chuck Taylor shoe. 

New Balance settled a separate lawsuit with various Karl Lagerfeld entities and Net-A-Porter Group concerning New Balance’s iconic trademarks and the design of Lagerfeld’s casual footwear line. Lagerfeld and Net-A-Porter have ceased selling the challenged footwear. The remaining terms of the settlement are confidential.

Puma (Germany) is being sued by Parigi Group, the former licensee of Puma's kids products, for breach of contract and defamation. Parigi is also suing United Legwear & Apparel Co., which is now in a joint venture with Puma. The lawsuit claims that Puma intentionally and fraudulently misrepresented that it intended to renew Parigi’s more than 10-year-long license agreement. It also alleges Puma disclosed trade secrets and proprietary business information to United Legwear & Apparel Co. and tried to discredit Parigi among retailers. Parigi is suing for more than US$75 million. 

Converse (USA) is suing 31 brands, including Fila, Ed Hardy, Ralph Lauren, Skechers and Walmart for copyright infringement of selling copied versions of its famous Chuck Taylor shoe. The shoe, easily recognisable for its rubber sole and canvas fabric, has seen many interpretations by other brands.
Converse claims the companies are infringing on trademarks that cover the look of the shoe, including core elements such as black stripes, recognizable ankle star, a rubber toe topper, and the diamond pattern on the sole.

Converse estimates it has sold about 1 billion shoes worldwide with its Chuck Taylor trademark features.

Nike has filed a lawsuit claiming three designers who left for rival adidas took company plans with them.  Mark Dolce, Mark Miner and Denis Dekovic all announced their departure Nike in September.

Nike said the designers had pitched Adidas last April on a design studio that would help craft products while also bringing Adidas information about Nike's plans for the next few years in its running, sportswear and soccer lines. The plans for the studio were essentially for a knockoff of Nike's own design lab, called the Kitchen, according to the complaint. 

Adidas will open a design studio called the Brooklyn Creative Design Studio this year and will employ the three ex-Nike designers.

Nike is seeking a minimum of $10 million in damages.

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