Battle of the Bangles
As I did my daily browse of Instagram early this morning, something caught my eye. In an ad, sponsored by famed high end jewelry brand Harry Winston (“HW”), there appeared a photo of a line of bangles they were introducing to the world. My face lit up instantly, becoming almost identical to Macaulay Culkin’s face during the infamous mirror scene in Home Alone. These bangles looked liked something I have seen before; a brand I could identify instantly. That brand was definitely NOT Harry Winston, but rather a close rival…Cartier.
Now here is where things can get a little messy. These HW bracelets are modeled after Cartier’s most signature piece of jewelry, the “Love Bracelet.” This “Love” line (and now with different designs— cufflinks, rings, earrings etc.) has been quoted as being the “most successful line in Cartier history.” They additionally have been called “the most popular and definitive pieces in modern jewelry.” There additionally is an option to place diamonds in the lock-like detailing of the bracelets.
So I did some research. Like any other law student, we know, research is the first step to building a case. What exactly did I find? I am so glad you asked! According to USPTO.gov, and the search I did for both patents — which turned up nothing and trademarks — where I got a hit, Cartier currently has a live trademark registered with the national office (the mark was registered in the 70’s btw). When a trademark is listed as “live” that just means the registered mark is still in the stream of commerce (being bought and/or sold). As popular as these bracelets are, this mark will be “live” for a very very very long time. HW named their copy bangles “Logo Accent” bracelets. These bracelets launched November of this year (2016).
For the spark note version — a trademark is in place to essentially prevent brand confusion from the view of the consumer. It is additionally in place for producers (the brands themselves) to protect their brand from dilution. One of the reasons why Christian Louboutin was partly successful in their case against YSL
was based on the fact the two competing brands are (1) in the same industry (high end, designer women’s shoes) and (2) the item causing the infringement was the same type of item (high heeled shoes).
Additionally, there is a potential trade dress issue. A trade dress is essentially the aesthetic of something and what it looks like. For example, when you walk into McDonald’, no matter where you, they almost all look the same. This aesthetic or “look” is called a trade dress. The look of the Cartier love bracelet is a trade dress, which Harry Winston seems to have infringed on.
Like the YSL/Louboutin issue discussed above, the same is the case here. (1) Harry Winston and Cartier have been rivals in the EXACT same industry for years. When you think of high end jewelry, these two brands would easily be in your top 5. And (2) the item at issue is a bracelet; and of the same style. Are they exactly the same? No and they don’t have to be. They are close enough to were without looking at the minor details, it could cause some confusion. This literally screams both a trademark/trade dress infringement claim and potentially an unfair competition claim. Like c’mon Harry Winston, you guys are so much better than that. However, I’m excited to see how this will unfold… *grabs popcorn*…