It’s April Fools’ Day today. I won’t go the usual route and write a prank blog. I will however discuss some fools I read about this morning: the geniuses over at Gucci.
It seems that these legal minds are suing Guess over…. the letter “G.” That’s right. Gucci wants to own a letter of the alphabet and have exclusive selling rights to any logo or design that uses that letter. The company is suing Guess for “trademark infringement,” claiming that Guess knocked off its G logos. Gucci’s lawyer, Louis Ederer, claimed in court that Guess has devised “a massive, complicated scheme to knock off Gucci’s best-known and iconic designs.” The company is seeking $124 million in damages.
The suit was filed in 2008, though due to some legal failings—Gucci’s former lead counsel failed to renew his bar membership—the court proceedings only started last Thursday. They are expected to continue for several weeks. (The fact that the legal mind initially in charge of the suit couldn’t even manage to renew his bar membership tells us something about the whole idea.)
What I want to know is how this lawsuit even got off the ground in the first place. How can we be allowing these big, rich companies to think they are entitled to own something as crucial to our entire language (and, in fact many other languages) as an alphabet letter? The arrogance behind this lawsuit is deep and damaging.
If this lawsuit succeeds, what happens next? Will Fendi own the letter “F”? Will Oprah own the letter “O”? Will we have to pay to use these letters as our own initials if some company has a logo that uses them? Will I have to stop signing my emails with simply “T” because Tommy Hilfiger used it with “H” on some hand bags? The idea behind Gucci’s lawsuit is foolish and foolhardy.
Rather than settle, Guess is fighting this lawsuit, as well it should. It claims its products, which sell at different price points and target a different niche market than Gucci’s, could never be confused with the rival company’s merchandise. Guess lawyer Daniel Petrocelli says, “The numbers don’t add up. If there was a scheme, it failed miserably.”
Guess also questions why it took Gucci seven years to decide to sue. I think the company saw an opportunity to try to make some money when, during these difficult economic times, its luxury goods may not be selling as well as they once did. In its greed, it wants to steal green from Guess’s successes.
My message to Gucci—and hopefully the court’s when the ruling comes down—is this:
You don’t own the alphabet. It’s free for anyone to use. If you really feel threatened by Guess, or any other company that uses the letter “G,” fight them in the marketplace, with a better product. Stop being greedy and grandiose. Give up this grandstanding over the letter “G.” Leave it in the public domain where it belongs, along with its 25 mates.
In the words of many famous Sesame Street residents, this blog was brought to you by the letter “G.” Long may it be free.