Khaki peddler The Gap is currently at the mercy of an angry online mob because of its recent logo change from the stodgy blue square enclosed “The Gap” to the American Apparel-esque “The Gap” with a blue square at the top right (see left). There’s now an epic Facebook post, mandatory fake Twitter account, a Gap logo generation engine as well as a spin-off redesign attempt which has not yet been revealed. Key takeway: The Internet takes branding seriously, we get it. But apparently not as seriously as The Gap itself, which recently filed suit against stealth social networking site Gapnote for trademark infringement.
While this isn’t a clear cut David and Goliath battle (The Gap has had its “Gap” trademark for a number of years) it’s interesting as The Gap, which recently had a monumental Groupon day boosting its tech hipster cred, is starting to take social media very seriously. As does Gapnote, based on the fact that it’s built its whole business around being a social network for past, present and future (heh).
From Gapnote CEO Greg Murphy:
“We wholly respect The Gap as a company and many of the core values its brand represents. We respect The Gap’s trademarks, but disagree with The Gap’s contention that it has the exclusive right to use the word “gap” (regardless of how it is used or combined) on the Internet with any conceivable business.”
The Gapnote fully intends to take this to trial, and Murphy thinks he has a case against the retailer as, “We have no intentions in becoming an apparel store now or anytime in the future.”
The Gap is demanding in the suit that the Gapnote both change its name and give up the URL Gapnote.com as it holds that the Gapnote’s branding is too similar to its trademark. Or at least one of its trademarks (see below). When the Gapnote conceded during negotiations that it could possibly change its font (the two logos are in fact sort of similar), The Gap was still after the Gapnote.com domain and Gapnote name, hence going to trial.
The Gap is also insisting that the marketing channels of the two companies are identical. By which we’re assuming both companies use the Internet for things. From The Gap’s lawyers:
“The proximity of the goods and services marketed under the two marks is extremely close, and their marketing channels are identical. The Gap has established an extensive presence on social media and networking websites and various online forums over the last several years.
Gapnote, not yet in existence (evidenced by the site’s current caption “Coming Soon to an Internet Near You”), is marketing its proposed site as a social media and networking website and forum. The two marks are used online for the same purpose and compete for the patronage of an overlapping audience; the use of similar marks to offer similar products, as such, weighs heavily in favor of likelihood of confusion.”
I am so seriously not a lawyer, but this sounds to me like The Gap is saying that any company that uses the Internet and has the word Gap in its name is fair game. In that case, it might want to take a gander at Crunchbase.
In case you are a lawyer, I’ve included court documents and complaint letters as well as videos from a pleading Gapnote below. Warning, they’re a little depressing.