A recent Google search for news relating to Italian design house, Gucci, resulted almost exclusively in articles about rapper Radric Davis – who is far better know by his stage name, Gucci Mane – and his recent release from prison and what Complex is calling his "upcoming clothing line." As a result, it seems as though our longstanding inquiry as to why the fashion house has not taken legal action against the rapper in the past may be more relevant than ever.
As we have told you in the past, it is interesting that the iconic Italian brand did not work more vigilantly to prevent the rapper, who made his music debut in 2005, from using its name. Gucci, the Kering-owned brand, which was founded in Florence in 1921, does not have a sizable presence in the music industry (or registered trademarks in this category), compared to say, Gucci Mane, but the Italian design house is not completely absent from the scene.
Consider its Chime For Change initiative, which consists of an annual “global concert event” and the corresponding merchandise, such as headphones. Also remember the design house launched the UK Music Fund in 2013 in an effort "to discover and nurture British music talent” and the Gucci Timepieces & Jewellery Music Fund, which the brand launched in 2013 in China. Then there is the brand’s penchant for dressing musicians. Gucci has been responsible for dressing Florence Welch and John Legend, among others for world tours. This past summer, we learned that Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele would design some of the costumes for Madonna’s world tour, and he has since created looks for a number of musicians, including Lady Gaga, Kesha, Harry Styles, and Beyonce, among others.
Gucci's failure to federally register its trademark in classes relating to music does not mean that it lacks grounds to potentially sue the similarly named rapper. The difference in industries in which the two entities exist is also not necessarily problematic. Trademark dilution is a trademark law concept giving the owner of a "famous" (a legal term of art) trademark (such as Gucci, potentially) standing to forbid others from using their mark in a way that would lessen its uniqueness or its strength. In most cases, trademark dilution involves the unauthorized use of another's trademark in connection with goods and/or services that do not compete with, or have little connection with, those of the trademark owner. As such, it may be the ideal claim for Gucci to bring against Gucci Mane, and yet, we have not seen any litigation between the two.
As for why we haven't seen any Gucci vs. Gucci Mane (or maybe better yet, Warner Bros Records) trademark dilution cases, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe Gucci is unable to show damage to its brand as a result of the rapper or maybe the tarnishment and/or blurring caused by Gucci Mane's use of the Gucci name is not posing a big enough threat to justify legal recourse on behalf of Gucci's legal team; litigation is expensive, after all.
Or still a possibility, Gucci just is not that up on the protection if its intellectual property. This is arguably true in comparison to some other big conglomerates, namely, its most immediate rival, LVMH, which spends 2% of its total revenues to fight intellectual property violations associated with its Louis Vuitton brand, for instance. However, considering Kering’s recent litigations with Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, for instance, it appears the luxury conglomerate is taking a more active approach to intellectual property protection. That still does not explain why Gucci v. Gucci Man hasn’t happened. Chances are: In the minds of Gucci’s counsel, the rapper, who until very recently, spent most of his time in jail, is just not that much of a threat in the world of high fashion.
However, now that Gucci Mane is a free man and reportedly has plans for a clothing line, entitled, Deltic, Gucci's enforcement strategy may change. (Note: even though the brand name does not technically contain the Gucci moniker, it may still be problematic if the rapper or better yet, the press, associates his name with it. Already, press coverage of the impending collection, such as an excerpt from Complex (pictured below), seems as though it could give rise to legal issues). We will have to wait and see ...
* This article was initially posted in June 2016.