Gucci Assails Guess for ‘Studied Imitations’ at Trial

Gucci America Inc., the maker of luxury clothing and accessories, made its final arguments in federal court today in a lawsuit claiming that Guess? Inc. copied its trademarked designs.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin conducted a three-week nonjury trial of Gucci’s infringement claims in Manhattan. She reserved judgment today and told lawyers for both sides after their closing arguments to submit post-trial documents “as quickly as you can. I want to get through this while it’s still fresh in my mind,” she said.

Gucci, a unit of Paris-based PPR, sued Guess in 2009 claiming that the Los Angeles-based clothing maker was selling apparel and accessories in stores and online with logos that are “studied imitations of the Gucci trademarks.” The imitations included a green-and-red stripe design, a square G, the designer’s name in flowing script and a diamond pattern with repeating interlocking G’s.

“This was in fact a calculated scheme to infringe on some of Gucci’s most iconic trademarks,” Louis Ederer, a lawyer for Gucci, said in his closing argument. He said in March that $221 million worth of Guess products infringed Gucci’s designs.

Claim to Infringement

Guess said in court papers that Gucci has no right to claim infringement because it “sat on its rights” for at least seven years before suing. Guess also said Gucci’s surveys failed to prove that consumers would be confused by the designs.

“They have no evidence of actual confusion and they have no lost sales or diverted sales,” Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Guess, said in his closing argument. “Intent is the pivotal issue in this case and the evidence in this trial is irreconcilable with any notion that Gucci intended or schemed to deceive consumers.”

Gucci is seeking monetary damages and other assessments totaling as much as $120 million, Ederer said in court.

Scheindlin interrupted Ederer’s closing at one point to ask why Gucci had waited years before filing the lawsuit.

“Millions of products were sold in the U.S. with Quattro G designs,” the judge said. “The advertisements were all over the place. How could they have missed it?”

‘Private Investigators’

Ederer replied, “Private investigators were looking for a lot of other things besides what other fashion designers were doing. We were focused on counterfeiting. No one came forward and notified anyone at Gucci America about this.”

The defendants also include Guess’s exclusive footwear licensee, Marc Fisher Footwear, Max Leather Group and Swank Inc.

“Gucci’s claims of a sophisticated and elaborate scheme are simply not supported by evidence,” Darren Saunders, a lawyer for Marc Fisher, said in his closing argument. “What are Gucci’s claims really about? They’re about a few shoes that, yes, came too close.”

Guess Chief Executive Officer Paul Marciano testified last week. Born in Morocco and raised in Marseilles, France, he and his brothers founded Guess in California in 1981. The company’s early success came from marketing jeans.

“The whole idea of trademark infringement is one of consumer confusion,” said Joseph Saphia, an intellectual-property attorney with Wiggin & Dana LLP in New York, who isn’t involved in the suit. “If there isn’t consumer confusion in the marketplace, what difference does it make?” Saphia said yesterday in a phone interview.

PPR fell 2.40 euros, or 2 percent, to 120.05 euros in Paris trading. Guess fell 37 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $29.51 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The case is Gucci America v. Guess Inc., 09-4373, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Editors: Fred Strasser, Charles Carter