THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE - After making headlines earlier this week by calling out Ivanka Trump for copying, footwear brand Aquazzura is back on our radar. You’ve definitely seen its shoes. Its Wild Thing fringed suede sandals made it onto Lyst’s 2015 “Fashion Fifty” list – meaning it was one of the most coveted items this past year. Another one if its must-have shoes – the Christy – a new take on the flat ghillie, was all over the feet of street style stars and likely your Instagram feed, as well. Not to mention Footwear News has already tapped the Florence-based brand’s Resort 2016 Rainbow Striped Suede Sandals and Byzantine Studded Leather Flats to be the “it” shoes of this year.
The brand has become something of an industry phenomenon. Since its launch in Florence in 2011, its founder, Edgardo Osorio, has overseen it grow into direct distribution in 52 countries. The company has also recently tripled its staff, and set out on a significant retail expansion plan. This year alone, Aquazzura is slated to open five stores, beginning with Miami and New York City.
With such swift success, the brand has – unsurprisingly – experienced its fair share of copying. Steve Madden, for instance, has been churning out nearly exact copies of the Aquazzura’s Wild Thing sandal, as has Ivanka Trump. Same color and everything! Mango (and many other brands) released a number of pairs that looks exactly like Aquazzura’s Christy flats. Nasty Gal has also taken on an array of Aquazzura styles, as has Zara.
Like a smart brand, Aquazzura has placed an increasing focus on protecting its valuable designs, and it has been doing so by filing for design patent protection for its most coveted styles. In March 2015, for instance, Aquazzura received a design patent for the lacing/strap arrangement of its best selling Belgravia sandal (pictured below). With Osorio listed as the inventor of the shoe, the brand may now file a patent infringement lawsuit against any company that using this novel design on its footwear.
As of this month, the brand was awarded another design patent, this time for the lacing/straps design embodied in its Christy flat and the corresponding pump version (pictured below). One thing that is particularly noteworthy in both instances is that Aquazzura did not seek and thus, was not granted, protection for any of the shoes designs in their entirety. This is meaningful for at least one key reason: It provides the brand with more protection than it otherwise would have gained had it sought to protect any of the shoes in their entirety.
By only claiming the lacing/straps designs (and not citing a specific shoe body or heel), the patent applies not only to a flat shoe, such as the Christy flat, but it also applies to a high-heeled version, which Aquazzura also offers (called the Christy pump). As such, the protection provided by the single patent is greater across a wider spectrum of copying. (Note: I would not be surprised if the brand files to protect the ¾ metallic and ¼ rubber heel design that comes on the Christy flat in the not too distant future, especially if it plans to use this heel or a similar one on other flats).
So, watch out copycats, design patents provide strong protections for their holders, and as Aquazzura demonstrated with its strongly-worded Instagram post directed at Trump this week, its not afraid to play rough.