Gucci sues Forever 21 for trademark infringement

International fashion house Gucci has been sending its iconic stripes down the runway for more than half a century in blue-red-blue and green-red-green.

But they're not alone, reports CBS News' Dana Jacobson. Similar designs with similar stripes are being sold by Forever 21. Now Gucci is suing the fast-fashion retailer for trademark infringement.

"Gucci is really having a moment and driving a lot of sales with these stripes," said Susan Scafidi, director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University.

"How can you actually trademark stripes?" Jacobson asked.

"When consumers recognize a certain striped pattern, whether it's Gucci's green, red, green, or Adidas' three-striped mark, then we give those companies recognition that those marks belong to those companies," Scafidi said.

Sometimes imitation isn't the sincerest form of flattery, especially when millions of dollars are at stake. In June, Forever 21 pre-emptively sued Gucci to protect itself.

"Isn't it good for Gucci if there are more people wearing a jacket that I might think is a Gucci jacket?" Jacobson asked.

"Oh no. Gucci's brand value gets diluted," Scafidi said. "Items like this hurt the bottom line because there's market substitution, people trade down or fail to buy the original."

Scafidi said Gucci has laid out a strong case.

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Gucci on the left, Forever 21 on the right

CBS News

"This is Gucci's counterclaim in two pictures. Forever 21 is focused on the stripes and claimed that they used blue-red-blue stripes randomly. Gucci would like the court to look at this and say, 'Oh no. That wasn't random. You're copying the entire Gucci product and attempting to convince the consumer to think about Gucci when it's really just Forever 21,'" Scafidi explained.

"It looks like the exact same jacket," Jacobson said.

"It really does very much look like a line-for-line, stitch-for-stitch copy," Scafidi said.

Women's Wear Daily style director Alex Badia said, "It is very interesting what fast retailers are doing because they bring in those trends to the masses."

"Everybody does it one way or another. Everybody gets inspired by other people. At times a little bit of copying is good. But there is a way of doing it in which you don't cross the line," Badia said.

In a statement to CBS News, Forever 21 called Gucci's claim false and said "clothes with this same, common stripe design have been sold for many years, by many different brands and remain widely available today."

"Forever 21 would love to cancel the Gucci trademarks in those stripes and free itself to copy those Gucci stripes over and over again. But Forever 21 may also seek to simply establish itself as a tough customer to sue," Scafidi said.

In a statement to CBS News, Gucci said with this lawsuit it has taken the step to "finally put an end" to Forever 21's "blatant exploitation" of its famous trademarks. Gucci is not the first to sue Forever 21. Adidas and Puma also brought similar suits against the company earlier this year.