image: Fiorucci

image: Fiorucci

Fiorucci is back. The formerly defunct Italian brand – which was snapped up by former Victoria’s Secret CEO Janie Schaffer and her husband, Stephen, in June 2015, from Japanese jeans group Edwin – made its revamped debut for Spring/Summer 2017, courtesy of a slew of parties and an ad campaign starring model (and Rolling Stones spawn) Georgia May Jagger. 

As noted by i-D earlier this year, Fiorucci’s “latest chapter will [also] see the brand open flagship stores in London, Milan, and Los Angeles, alongside a new global e-commerce website,” offering up re-interpretations of the brand’s most iconic garments, such as the stretch jeans and printed baby tees, popularized under the watch of the late Elio Fiorucci, who launched his label in 1967. 

While the brand’s revamp appears to be going quite well – the brand is building a following on social media and some of the biggest name models, and influencers, alike, (think: Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Chiara Ferragni, etc.) have taken to Instagram to post photos of themselves in Fiorucci-branded tees and crop-tops – it has not been a smooth road to get to this point, though. In fact, as recently as May 2016, Fiorucci was tied up in a legal battle before the Italian Supreme Court, which ruled on the rather longstanding name debate involving the rights to Fiorucci SpA. 

In accordance with that ruling, Elio Fiorucci’s estate (the designer died in July 2015) may not use his name in connection with an array of goods. Such disputes tend to come about when someone doing business under his or her own name sells off the rights and then tries to compete in the original field using some form of the name. Not surprisingly, this is exactly what occurred in the Fiorucci case.

In the 1980’s, after garnering fans like Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Jones, and Cher, Fiorucci fell upon hard times due to poor management of his brand. After changing hands a couple of times, the company was acquired by Japanese denim brand, Edwin Co. Ltd., which purchased the entirety of the company’s “creative assets” in 1990, including, the right to use the Fiorucci name in connection with the sale of “clothes and other goods.”

Now skip forward to 2004, when Edwin filed an action against Mr. Fiorucci because he was using and had applied for trademark registration of trademark “Love Therapy by Elio Fiorucci” for use in connection with a wide array of goods, including clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, and leather goods, among others.

A Bit of Background

To be exact, Fiorucci and Edwin’s legal drama dates back to December 1997, when Edwin applied to register and was granted trademark rights in the ELIO FIORUCCI name in the European Union by the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

Several years after Edwin was granted a registration for the ELIO FIORUCCI trademark, Mr. Fiorucci embarked on a fight to invalidate the trademark, claiming that in Italy his name enjoyed special protection, under which a well-known personal name can be registered as a trademark only by, or with the consent of, that person, and that no such consent had been given in this case.

The case made its way through the European Union IP office and court systems before landing in front of the Court of Justice – the highest court in the European Union – which was tasked with determining whether under Italian law Edwin could prevent Mr. Fiorucci, a famous figure, from using his name in a commercial capacity. 

Ultimately, the Court of Justice ruled in Elio Fiorucci’s favor, holding that under Italian law, the so-called “right to a name” protects famous people from having their names used without their express consent. Since Mr. Fiorucci had established his name as having significance in the business world, any use of that name requires his permission, the court concluded.

The Most Recent Ruling

The case was sent back to the Italian Supreme Court, which sided with Edwin in May 2016. According to the court, personal name rights would be “even if not exactly eliminated, surely restricted in an economic and business framework” when the person whose name is involved previously registered the name as a trademark and then transferred it to a third party (Edwin in the case at hand). 

In ruling against the estate of Mr. Fiorucci, the court also held that Mr. Fiorucci infringed Edwin’s trademark rights by using the “Love Therapy by Elio Fiorucci” trademark, regardless of whether it does contain his own personal name. 

The court further stated in its decision that the use of the Fiorucci name allowed Mr. Fiorucci to take unfair advantage of the reputation of the well-known ELIO FIORUCCI trademark, which he previously sold to Edwin, while still benefitting from the arrangement he made with Edwin. As a result, the court ordered that Elio Fiorucci camp no longer be permitted to use the trademark.

With that in mind, Schaffer and her recently relaunched Fiorucci will be the only ones legally using the brand name on everything from garments and accessories to whatever else the brand dreams up.