image: Gucci

An unsuspecting Italian family recently found itself in a legal scuffle with fashion house Gucci.  In 2016, the Tuscan family – whose last name also happens to be Gucci – opened Gucci Bistro, a restaurant located just northwest of Florence, Italy. Headquartered in Florence, Gucci, the nearly 100-year old fashion house, reportedly threatened legal action against the unrelated family on trademark grounds, citing the potential confusion that their similarly-named bistro could cause amongst consumers.

Martina Gucci, one of the founders of Gucci Bistro, explained to The Local, an Italian publication: “At first we thought they hadn’t understood, and we replied that we are a family, and that the name of the restaurant was also our surname … Also, we’re in Prato, not Milan or Rome for example – it’s not a particularly well known area.”

The Italian court system’s often-lengthy process presented the very real possibility that if this litigation came to be, the proceedings could last well over 20 years.  As a result, the Gucci Bistro founders decided to cooperate with the Italian fashion house rather than fight it, and changed its name to “GI” with an additional condition that Gucci would split the cost of both new outdoor signage and new business cards.

Ms. Gucci noted that “[these] expenses were big for a family that has just opened up a restaurant, while for the other Gucci, it barely made a difference. But hopefully the damage is resolved now – we have told our clients about the new name, and at least now we are getting publicity!”

While this potential litigation may seem frivolous on Gucci’s part, the brand currently maintains four cafes of its own in Florence, Milan, Tokyo and Shanghai. This suggests that Gucci had cause to worry that the public would associate the unrelated “Gucci” Bistro with its brand and its own culinary outposts.

This particular threat of legal action by Gucci will come as little surprise to those that have followed the house’s litigation history (and the general litigiousness of luxury brands in general in efforts to protect their valuable intellectual property from unauthorized use).

Gucci’s History of Litigation

Let us not forget the 1988 case, Gucci v. Gucci Shops, Inc., in which Paolo Gucci, the grandson of the house’s founder, Guccio Gucci, attempted to launch his own business using his last name, only to be faced with significant pushback from the family company. The court ultimately prohibited Mr. Gucci from using his last name on the basis of likelihood of consumer confusion. The court did, however, permit him to use his name to identify himself as the designer of products sold under another brand name (along with a provided disclaimer that notified consumers he was not affiliated with any of the existing Gucci entities).

In 2009, a similar case was filed when Paolo Gucci’s ex-wife, Jennifer, was accused by the house of hawking “Gucci” skin care products, bedding and linen.

Still yet, in 2010, the fashion house initiated litigation and successfully halted yet another relative, Elisabetta Gucci, in her plans to open a global chain of hotels under the family name.  And even more recently, in 2012, Gucci was able to block the business plan of two of Guccio Gucci’s great grandsons. The Italian court prevented the two Gucci relatives from using the name “Guccio Gucci” to market their own handbags and accessories firm, ToBeG Srl.

As for why Gucci has not taken rapper Gucci Mane to court, you can read more about that here.