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Gucci, Guess to Join YSL and Louboutin in Second Circuit Queue?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on May 04, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you thrive on the drama of the Christian Louboutin-Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) red-soled shoe litigation, or any fashion litigation, then the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is a great place to get your fix.

While the Second Circuit is expected to issue its sole decision soon, we're guessing that red soles will soon make way for the appellate court to evaluate the power of the letter G in the Gucci v. Guess litigation.

What are the similarities and differences between these cases?

The Louboutin-YSL dispute addresses the issue of whether Louboutin had a valid trademark on his widely-recognized red soles. Last year, Louboutin sued to enjoin competitor YSL from making red-soled shoes.

In August 2011, Judge Vincent Marrero denied Louboutin's motion for a preliminary injunction to halt production of Yves Saint Laurent's (YSL) Resort 2011 all-red shoes. In his opinion, Marrero explained, "Because in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the Court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning."

Instead of waiting for summary judgment in the case, Louboutin appealed the preliminary injunction to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Though the appellate court is expected to kick the case back to Judge Marrero for additional discovery, the decision is taking longer than initially anticipated.

The Gucci v. Guess dispute, by contrast, hasn't even made it out of the district court yet. Gucci claims that Guess and its licensees knocked off Gucci designs, producing items that featured the brand's diamond-shaped logoed pattern, square "G" design, a signature script and tri-striped motif, reports Women's Wear Daily. Gucci is asking the court to award $221 million in damages, as well as injunctive relief. At the conclusion of the trial, which ended in April, both parties appeared confidence they would prevail.

But while Louboutin argues that YSL is infringing on his trademark soles with a single shoe design, Gucci attorney Louis Ederer argued in court that Guess's "entire business model" was to copy Gucci as closely as possible without getting caught. WWD reports that Ederer told the court, "It's all an infringement ... It's all willful. It's knowing and deliberate every step of the way." Considering the tensions between the luxury house and the All-American brand, the trial court's decision, whatever it may be, will probably be appealed to the Second Circuit.

Do you think that the cases like the Louboutin-YSL dispute and the Gucci v. Guess claim are valid attempts to protect trademarks, or are the plaintiffs just trying to smother the competition?

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