One of the most - if not the most - sought-after Cartier bracelet style is held together by two grub screws that, when tightened, lock onto the wearer's wrist. According to Cartier's website, this gilded bit of bondage is meant "to sanctify inseparable love." Per AdWeek, given the price tags associated with these designs, they "also signify high incomes."
When the Love bracelet was first released by Cartier in 1969 - the creation of designer Aldo Cipullo for the Paris-based jewelry company - it became something of a must-have item. Originally plated in gold and sold only to couples, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, the design, itself, remains relatively unchanged nearly 50 years later.
The gold plating has been swapped for three alloys of gold and costs anywhere from $4,500 to $56,500, and the bracelets are now sold individually. Moreover, the brand has since released a slimmed-down version of the bracelet, as well as an array of diamond encrusted options. But the design itself – with its two unique C-shaped halves that unhinge to clasp together before being screwed on with the miniature screwdriver included with each bracelet – functions in exactly the same manner.
In recent years, Cartier’s iconic design has enjoyed a mainstream resurgence of sorts, in particular thanks to a number of high profile and highly influential wearers. And with the widespread attention has come no shortage of counterfeits, “parodies,” (remember the Lust bracelet?) and other plays on the protected Cartier design.
Love and Legal Protections
Given the staying power of the Love bracelet (it has been marketed and sold for almost 50 years now) and Cartier’s penchant for protecting its valuable designs, it should come as little surprise that the jewelry company maintains an array of legal protections in connection with it, thereby enabling Cartier to initiate litigation against others that attempt to replicate its iconic design, such as the hoards of Amazon sellers offering fake Love bracelets for little more than $30 in some cases.
One very important right that Cartier has enjoyed for decades in the U.S.? Trade dress protection, a type of trademark law that extends to the configuration of a product itself, including features such as size, shape, color or color combinations, etc. One particularly important trade dress registration that Cartier holds extends to the overall appearance of the Love bracelet.
Registered in 1977 and renewed as recently at 2007 (trade dress and trademark protection can, in theory, last indefinitely, remember), this specific registration protects “the overall configuration of a bracelet having a series of simulated screws which encircle the goods and two real screws, which appear at the points on the bracelet where it may be opened” in Class 27. An identical registration was issued in 1985 in Class 28, which broadly covers "amusement and game apparatus" and "equipment for various sports and games."
There are a number of other trademarks in the mix, as well. For instance, the famed jeweler has trademark rights in the design of "a jewelry item with a series of simulated heads of screws embedded around the outside perimeter." And another for "a configuration of a simulated head of a screw that is embedded in the goods." Still yet, Cartier holds a trademark for a “stylized version of the word LOVE," which covers classes 14, 18, and 25, jewelry, leatherware, and apparel, respectively. These are just a few of its very valuable intellectual property rights directly related to the Love bracelet.
Cartier: A Vigilant Defender
Far from merely accumulating and sitting on such trademarks, Cartier is an active defender of its rights. (As you may know, it is the trademark holder's duty to police unauthorized uses of its trademarks). In addition to the many, many run-of-the-mill trademark infringement and counterfeiting cases that Cartier (and almost every other luxury brand) files each year, it has been involved in an array of rather interesting legal matters in connection with the Love bracelet, as well.
As we told you in early 2014, the jewelry company was in the midst of a trademark battle with the World Gold Council in an attempt to prevent the market development organization for the gold industry from federally registering its own "LoveGold" trademarks. In that case, which the jewelry company has since abandoned, Cartier argued that “believes it will be damaged by the issuance of a registration for the marks LoveGold."
More recently, Cartier and its parent company, Richemont, were in and out of court in the United Kingdom in connection with a landmark case that would require internet service provider ("ISP") companies – including the defendants in the case, BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE – to block access to websites offering for sale and selling fake versions of its watches and jewelry.
Ruling in favor of Cartier and Richemont last year, the England and Wales Court of Appeal confirmed a lower court's finding that ISPs do, in fact, have an obligation to block sites that infringe others' trademarks. The court stated that while the responsibility lies primarily with brands to identify the offending websites, ISPs have a legal responsibility to cooperate in disabling them, thereby sharing the burden of combating the sale of counterfeit goods online with the brand owners.