The Court of Torino recently ruled in a lawsuit promoted by Basic Net, owner of the well-known brand K-Way, against Giorgio Armani due to the marketing, by the latter, of products bearing the known K-Way colored.
Basic Net is the owner of a registered color Community trade mark which reproduces the famous colored strip which characterizes the clothing items branded by K-Way.
In its decision, the Court of Turin shared the arguments of the Court of the European Union concerning the application for registration of Basic Net’s Community figurative mark consisting of strips. On this occasion, the Court of Torino confirmed the rejection of the application for registration of the sign due to lack of distinctiveness. However, the Court also verified the acquisition of a distinctive character following use (so-called "secondary meaning") in four European Union States, including Italy.
The Court of Torino therefore concluded that the famous colored stripes of a K-Way constitute "a valid mark of fact, endowed with autonomous distinctive capacity even when used in combination with the K Way brand".
The Italian Court then ruled that the products they identified are "at least very similar (in the sense that they belong to the same line of casual / casual clothing) and sold at entirely comparable prices". This implies a risk of confusion between the brand of the actress Basic Net and the colored band that appears on the Armani garment. According to the Court, the likelihood of confusion arises from the use of the colored band, the overall visual impact it generates and its positioning on the sides of the hinges, and the fact that both products bearing the strip in question are marketed at the same stores and that their cost is almost similar. Such circumstances "can in fact concretely induce the consumer to believe that between the two companies there are ongoing non-existent co-branding operations". Finally, the Court of Turin ruled out the principle of the application of the c.d. “imperative of availability” opposed by the defendant
According to this principle third parties must always differentiate themselves through distinguishing additions or other arbitrary variations, sufficient to eliminate the risk of confusion with other products.
In this case, however, the additions made by Armani (aka the famous stylized eagles and the "AJ ARMANI JEANS" brand) are not considered sufficient to differentiate the product.
According to the Court of Torino the affixing of a notorious mark on the product does not exclude the counterfeiting of the figurative mark of another; if this were not the case "we would arrive at the paradoxical consequence of allowing the owners of the former to appropriately take possession of the latter, with the only precaution to use it in association with their distinctive mark, highly established on the market and highly distinctive and recognizable". For all the above, the Court concluded by declaring that the behavior established by Giorgio Armani "Constitutes an act of trademark infringement and as well as an act of unfair competition". The Court therefore issued against Armani an injunction order from the import, export, sale, marketing and advertising of class 25 products (in particular jackets) bearing the trademark object of the case or other mark containing the sign in question extended to the territory of the European Union and an order of destruction in Italy of counterfeit products.