In the midst of the great blanding overhaul of the past few years, a movement that saw fashion brands like Saint Laurent, Rimowa, Burberry, Balenciaga, and Berluti, among others, swap their stylized wordmarks for more spartan, sans-serif logos, Balmain opted for a visual rebrand, as well. To coincide with its Pre-Fall presentation in December 2018, the Paris-based brand debuted a newly styled wordmark and logo designed by Paris-based creative studio, Adulte Adulte in conjunction with Balmain’s creative head Olivier Rousteing.
Alongside a sans-serif “Balmain Paris” as part of the revamped branding was a circular logo inside of which the letter “B” and a woven-in “P” – a reference to Pierre Balmain, the brand's founder – could be found. That logo was quick to find its way onto the brand’s social media accounts, as well as belts and garments in the Pre-Fall collection. The new logo also swiftly became the subject of copycat call outs, as it closely resembles one that the late Italian designer Laura Biagiotti had long used for her eponymous label, and which the brand still uses under the watch of Biagiotti’s daughter, Lavinia.
While the social media chatter swiftly died down, and a trademark infringement lawsuit never came to be, Balmain and the Biagiotti Group have been engaged in settlement discussions, announcing in a statement on Friday that they have “amicably solved any issue related to a possible interference between the new graphic design of the Balmain monogram and the ‘LB’ logo of the Biagiotti Group.”
Balmain – just days after its Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show, which was staged against a backdrop that made use of the giant circular “B” logo – “will introduce a new version of its monogram starting from [its womenswear] spring 2020 collection” in September, per WWD. It is unclear what else the parties’ agreement entails, namely, whether there is a financial component at play paid from Balmain to Biagiotti in addition to Balmain’s agreement to abandon its current logo, likely in order to avoid legal liability.
As for whether the Biagiotti Group had a merited trademark infringement claim, it seems likely.
For one thing, the Biagiotti group maintains an array of trademark registrations for the “LB” logo, including in the European Union, for use on garments, bags, footwear, and eyewear, among other things. More than that, an argument could be made that given the sheer similarity of the two parties’ logo marks and the types of goods they are being used on, that consumers are likely to be confused as to the source of products bearing the lookalike mark (sans the "Balmain word mark, of course) – which is the central issue in a trademark infringement case.
Interestingly, while so many fashion industry trademark battles – such as the Louboutin v. YSL case or the Louis Vuitton v. My Other Bag case or the Chanel v. The RealReal case or any of the many adidas cases, etc. – play out, sometimes in a very ugly way, in the courtroom to an eagerly-following public, this one managed to remain almost entirely behind-the-scenes.