Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele is coming under fire for allegedly copying a New York-based designer in connection with the house’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection. According to our friends over at Fashionista, the nail rings that the Florence-based brand showed for Spring/Summer 2016 are a bit too close to those of Bijules, a New York-based fine jewelry brand, and Jules Kim, the brand’s designer, plans to take legal action. Kim, whose designs have been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Elle, and other publications, as well as on Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and model Karolina Kurkova (at the Met Gala in 2013), told the publication that she plans to file a copyright infringement lawsuit to prevent the famed Italian design house from selling the rings.
A quick search reveals that while Kim does, in fact, have two federal copyright registrations that cover her “Serpensive Nail Ring” designs (above, left) – which were issued in 2011 and 2012, respectively – that does not mean she necessarily has an open-and-shut case. In fact, I am quite skeptical that Kim's hypothetical lawsuit will be successful.
First, there is a very real chance the court will not find that Gucci’s rings are “substantially similar” to Kim’s - that is the standard for copyright infringement. According to Kim's copyright registrations, she does not have broad rights in nail ring designs, in general, but instead, her original designs (and thus, her copyrights) are centered upon the “serpent” element. As such, she does not have a blanket right when it comes to other nail ring designs. This is problematic because there is a chance that Gucci's designs could be construed as not "serpent"-like at all.
Second, Gucci has not actually sold any of the rings - it has just sent them down the runway. As a result, it would likely be difficult for Kim to show that she has somehow been damaged monetarily by Gucci. As such, this will not be the easy case that some fashion sites are making it out to be. It is also worth noting that as of today, Kim has not filed suit, but stay tuned.