November 28, 2012
Shoe designer Charles Philip Shanghai recently filed a lawsuit against The Gap for trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, unfair competition, dilution, right of publicity and other claims.
The lawsuit alleges that The Gap copied his loafer collection and stole his striped shoe lining. The designer claims that the striped shoe lining is his signature style in all of his shoes. He currently has two trademark applications pending for his blue striped lining.
The allegations also include that The Gap lists the loafers as the "Phillip Moccasin Slipper" and the "Phillip Slipper" by adding an extra "L." His attorneys argue that allowing The Gap to sell these shoes creates confusion with consumers by making them believe that The Gap and Charles Philip are working together to sell this product.
One major difference between the two loafers is price. The Gap sells the loafers for roughly 80 percent less than the original Charles Philip shoe. The Gap sells the loafers strictly in its retail stores and online while Charles Philip distributes his loafers through high-end retailers to sell to customers.
The price difference could harm the shoe designer's lawsuit. Products that are more expensive tend to have more discriminating consumers who buy them, meaning that there should be less confusion over which shoes are the original and which ones are made by The Gap.
Price discrepancies have played a role in previous trademark infringement cases like this one. Last summer, a court found that consumer confusion was not likely to occur between a pair of real Louboutins and a look-a-like pair made by Zara. The price difference between the two brands was over $630. Louboutin did not win their lawsuit and Zara was able to continue selling their look-a-like shoes for a fraction of the cost.
The lawsuit is still pending so the shoe designer and consumers will have to wait for the court ruling before The Gap may be forced to stop selling the loafers.
Source: IP Brief, "Shoe Designer Charles Philip Sues The Gap, Tries to Stomp Out the Competition," Asha Velay, Nov. 26, 2012