Coolporate may be facing off against Gucci in the near future. The web-based t-shirt company, whose wares recently caught the attention of HighSnobiety (which ran an article, entitled, “Coolporate Drops New Bootleg Gucci Snake T-Shirts” last week), is offering some interesting and legally questionable tees in connection with its new “BOOTLEG” collection. The garments at issue? A whole collection of t-shirts that bear a striped snake symbol.
If the design looks familiar, that is because Gucci, which is currently experiencing a popular resurgence of sorts under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, introduced it in February 2016 and has since prominently utilized it on an array of garments and handbags in recent seasons. Likely planning to use such iconography in upcoming seasons and predicting widespread copying by others, the Italian design house went a step further this summer by filing to federally register its snake symbols (along with a number of its other recently adopted iconography designs) with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
According to one of Gucci’s trademark applications for the snake design, the "banded snake" mark consists of “the design of a striped snake on a stripe containing three distinctive bands of colors, the colors being blue, red, then blue.” (Note: Gucci already holds federal trademark registrations for its red and green three-striped band). Another application, which claims rights in the snake design sans the three-striped band, describes the mark as covering: “the design of a snake with stripes." Still another application covers the blue-red-blue striped band.
As we know, trademarks must be registered according to the classes of goods and services in which the registrant uses or plans to use them. As such, Gucci is seeking exclusive rights in the marks in classes 18 and 25, which include handbags and clothing, among other goods. We also know that trademark rights exist regardless of whether a party has a federal registration. This is because trademark rights – in the U.S. – are dependent on the mark being used in commerce, meaning that Gucci already holds rights in the snake designs at issue in connection with its use of the marks to date.
With this in mind, Coolporate’s tees almost certainly amount to trademark infringement, namely because consumers are likely to be confused as to the source of the Coolporate goods given the company’s usage of Gucci’s trademarks. For the uninitiated, trademark infringement claims center on whether there is a “likelihood of confusion.” In sum, this means that a party cannot use another’s trademark if such use is likely to cause confusion or mistake among consumers, or in short: will make consumers think the two different companies’ products are somehow affiliated.
High fashion and luxury brands are consistently considered some of the most litigious since their intellectual property rights are some of their most valuable assets. Therefore, it would not come as much of a surprise if Gucci decides to take legal action. Chances are, Gucci’s IP counsel is probably drafting a cease and desist letter as we speak and the Coolporate snake tees will disappear from its site in the very near future.
UPDATE (3/1/2017): Turns out Coolporate is even more of a copycat than we thought, as the infringing Gucci tees actually originate from another source: The Customz, which has taken to adding the Gucci snake and banded stripes to an array of other companies' designs. In addition to blank tees bearing the banded snake design, this web-based company is also offering counterfeit Anti Social Social Club tees making use of the Gucci snake, as well as Kanye West tour merch "I Feel Like Pablo" tees and sweatshirts bearing the snake.
Ironically enough, The Customz has gone so far as to call out Coolporate for copying, posting a screenshot of the aforementioned HighSnobiety article on its Instagram page along with the caption: "When they steal yo design👀. I see u."