Luxury brands are very protective of their names (e.g., the movie “The Hangover Part II” and Louis Vuitton, anyone?). Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise to hear that Milanese fashion label Dolce & Gabbana filed a trademark infringement suit against a small boutique in Cape Town, South Africa, that decided to name itself “Dolce & Banana,” and sells jewelry made out of driftwood and shells. The Italian company filed its suit in the Western Cape High Court and alleged that the boutique “makes a mockery of the well-known trademark, Dolce & Gabbana” and demanded that Dolce & Banana change its name.
Perhaps Dolce & Gabbana considered the offense of making jewelry out of driftwood and shells as more of the mockery than the use of the Dolce & Banana name. Regardless, Mijou Beller, the owner of Dolce & Banana, said she was first contacted by the fashion house six years ago and sought the help of an attorney to tell it that it did not have a trademark on jewelry, or any stores in South Africa, for that matter.
When she heard from the company again last year, at the end of November, Beller states that she changed her sign to read “… & Banana” in hopes of avoiding damages and has spent a great deal of money to change the branding. Unsatisfied, Dolce & Gabbana is demanding that Beller reimburse it for about half of its legal fees. Beller, claiming that such a payment would destroy her financially, took to Twitter to offer a plea:
Dear Stefano, please let us be. And visit us in Cape Town. I have always admired your famous sense of humor so present in your brand and in your designs. And although I appreciate that Dolce & Gabbana is a very successful commercial enterprise, I fail to understand why Dolce and Banana is a threat.
Perhaps Beller’s last words are most relevant. Is Dolce & Gabbana merely doing its job to police protect its mark, or is it just bullying a small business? Oddly enough, here in the U.S., Dolce & Gabbana opposed the trademark of a children’s clothing line for … “DOLCE & BANANA” … in 2009. The trademark, as seen here, however, has since been registered in 2010.