You know how much we like to play this thing looks like that thing, but so rarely does our little game end up in court. But when the things you’re talking about are purses that have made big-name fashion companies many millions of dollars, you can bet somebody’s lawyers are going to get involved.
Givenchy filed a lawsuit against BCBG Max Azria, claiming that the BCBG Rembrandt handbag looks a little too much like Givenchy’s Nightingale purse to be a coincidence. Givenchy’s suit doesn’t claim that the Rembrandt violates the Nightingale’s patent or anything — instead, the French house’s gripe is that BCBG has copied the “decorative double stitched horizontal and vertical stripes on the exterior that visually separate the bag into four distinct quadrants.”
If that sounds like a silly thing to complain about, rest assured it’s not — non-functional elements of a product’s appearance are protected under a legal idea called trade dress, which aims to ensure that consumers don’t buy one thing and think it’s actually something else.
Granted most people with enough money to spend $2,200 on a Nightingale would probably be able to tell the difference between Givenchy and BCBG, but all the same, they’re very similar bags. Givenchy has earned about $50 million dollars from sales of the Nightingales and that the public recognizes the stitching as a part of the Givenchy canon. Furthers sales of the Rembrandt, Givenchy says, would allow BCBG to profit from its distinctive design.
In addition to money damages, Givenchy seeks an injunction preventing further sales of the Rembrandt and other bags that feature the same kind of stitching. We’ll keep watch for the results of the case, but in the meantime, what do you think? Does Givenchy have a case?
[Via Milord and Associates]