Your brand name and your corporate identity are a huge part of your business. They inspire brand recognition, promote customer relationships and build customer loyalty too. So when you’re setting up a business, new product or fresh enterprise, it’s essential that you firstly ensure you’re not stepping on another business’s toes and secondly take steps to protect your trademark from infringement.
Today we’ll be taking a look at three famous trademark infringement cases and exploring the lessons these court cases can teach us about performing due diligence and protecting our brands. If you’re interested in learning more about how to conduct effective due diligence and how to make sure your trademark is protected, we’d recommend checking out a company like RMOnline.com who offer a range of specialist services to keep your good name safe.
Services like this provide tools to help you check for existing brands and later infringements using identical searches (which target individual words and phrases) and comprehensive searches (which search around your trademark to highlight potential issues). But first, let’s take a look at exactly why these services are so crucial…
Gucci Vs. Guess
In 2009 fashion mega-brand Gucci took it’s competitor Guess to court seeking $120 million in damages for trademark infringement. Gucci claimed that Guess Inc. had infringed on six of their trademarked designs including a stylised “G”, a script logo and the brand’s well-known “Quattro G” design comprised of 4 interlocking “G”s.
The judge ruled that although Gucci’s trademarks had indeed been infringed, they would not be able to sue for damage to their brand or lost sales. The company did not receive the looked for $120 million, instead coming away with just $4.66 million after it was suggested that Gucci’s calculated losses were overreaching and “highly speculative”.
Although Gucci did not receive the looked for sum, they were able to prove that Guess had infringed upon their trademark. Even with something as universal as an initial (in this case “G”), it’s crucial to ensure you arrange copyright, protect your trademark or make sure that you’re not verging on another company’s territory.
Victoria’s Secret Vs. Victor’s Little Secret
In 2009, lingerie company Victoria’s Secret sued a small Kentucky sex shop for trademark infringement causing trademark dilution. Initially Victor won as Victoria’s Secret were unable to prove that this trademark dilution had caused harm to their brand. Later, however, the law was change and only ‘probable harm’ was required to hand victory over to the big lingerie company.
Even small businesses can be affected by trademark disputes. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent because you believe you are “small fry”, bigger corporations can still see you as a threat and harmful to their brand.
“Keep Calm & Carry On” Vs. Everyone
Initially created by the British Government in 1939 and protected under Crown Copyright for 50 years, the “keep calm and carry on” slogan has now been appropriated by almost everyone. Unfortunately, this once free-to-use favourite has now been trademarked in the EU and has a patent pending in the US. This will make “appropriation” of the slogan a matter of infringement in Europe and America although usage is not protected in the UK.
Be cautious with using well known phrases and slogans that you believe are in the public domain. Trademarks differ from country to country so make sure you know how the legal land lies wherever you intend to do business.
Have you experienced any trademark issues? Share your stories of accidental infringement and daylight trademark robbery below.