High-end fashion houses are in a constant battle to protect their brands from fakes and imposters. Sometimes it's direct forgery designed to resemble the real thing, and sometimes it's copycat brands that use similar branding to try to look like a big name. But now Gucci's come up against something a little different – and lost.
In an apparent parody of the Italian fashion house, an Osaka-based entrepreneur registered a trademark for the brand Cuggl. But not content with using a name that inverts the G and double C of Gucci and changes the I to an L, the company is producing T-shirts that show its registered logo partially obscured, making it look like the Gucci logo redacted using hot pink paint. Suffice it to say that this could be one for our roundup of logos that look ridiculously similar.
According to the Japanese law firm Marks IP (opens in new tab), Nobuaki Kurokawa applied for a trademark (opens in new tab) for CUGGL in October 2020. Gucci was a little slow to realise, but when it did, it lodged a complaint accusing Kurokawa of trademarking his CUGGL mark with “malicious intent to free-ride on the goodwill and reputation” of its brand. It argued that CUGGL was “identical with, or similar to, a trademark which is well known among consumers in Japan or abroad” and that the likeness could damage its own reputation and deceive shoppers since it was being used in a fashion context.
However, the Japan Patent Office has rejected the comparison between the Gucci and CUGGL marks, saying that it sees no resemblances “from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view". It found that there was a “low degree of similarity” between the logos, so consumers were not likely to confuse them. We're not sure whether they actually saw the logo in context though since the placing of the line of pink paint shown in the registered logo seems to cheekily move when applied in some of the clothes that Kurokawa produces.
And it turns out that Gucci isn't the only fashion brand that Kurokawa has parodied. He's also targetted Chanel by trademarking the brand GUANFI and subjecting the logo to the same treatment, and the site parodys.thebase.in (opens in new tab) also sells 'Balehengana' T-shirts that work in the same way, along with a range of parodies that modify target other brands' logos, for example replacing Puma's eponymous big cat with a bounding pug. The T-shirts sell at between $12 and $25, and we wouldn't be surprised if Gucci's legal action has led to a bump in sales. Now it just needs to do a pet collection like Gucci's.
While Gucci, and probably other brands, won't be happy, a lot of people are enjoying a moment of schadenfreude. A tweet about the news shared by mathematician @halvarflake has racked up over 3K retweets and comments hailing Kurokawa as a 'genius'. "It’s kinda hilarious cus they’d be suing over the top 1/4 of some letters. Would never buy Gucci, but would probably buy CUGGL," one person wrote. "BIGGEST TROLL” another user wrote.
Today in IP law: someone registered a trademark for CUGGL as a clothing brand in Japan, and sells shirts with the logo partially obscured. GUCCI sued, JP trademark office states that CUGGL is not similar enough to GUCCI to warrant enforcement. pic.twitter.com/FKIyaQBtlEAugust 22, 2022
Perhaps part of Gucci's problem when it took legal action over the case is the suggestion that logos are starting to look the same. It seems the JPO was unable to find a distinguishing feature that the CUGGL logo infringed. The case also raises questions about the line between trademark infringement and parody – and it makes us wonder what Starbucks thinks of the Russian Starbucks replacement's logo.
One user suggests on Twitter that the Gucci logo uses the font Granjon, based on Garamond, not a commission or exclusive to Gucci. "You can buy a license to use it for like $30 dollars," they say. To make your own fashion designs for even cheaper, see our guide to the best free fonts for designers, and make sure you have the best graphic design software.