The Gap Having All Sorts Of Problems

Solid blue background with thin all caps white block letters that spell the word “GAP”.  That’s the logo that has been associated with the American clothing and accessories retailer for as long as I can remember.  But earlier this month, the company decided that it was time for a change of branding.  A new logo was unveiled, which was supposed to be “a more contemporary, modern expression” for the company.  It did not last long, as criticism surrounding the mark was widespread and expansive.  This led to The Gap opening up a discussion on its Facebook page regarding the creation of another new logo.

Then the Gap backtracked and folded its hand, scrapped the Facebook discussion and decided to go back to its traditional well-known logo.  The “Blue Box” is back, and it is here to stay…at least for the time being.  And I’m talking about the full on blue box, not the tiny blue box featured on the right (which is actually the logo that received so much criticism).

Branding is very important for The Gap, which is why it smartly adapted to the negative reaction regarding its change of logo.  It has also gone to great lengths to make sure that its trademarks are not infringed upon.  In the midst of the company going through the logo controversy, it was focusing on a lawsuit against a social network website named Gapnote. The Gap alleges that the name “Gapnote” infringes on The Gap’s tradename.  In any trademark infringement case, the key concern is consumer confusion.  The Gap needs to establish 1) The Gap has a valid protectable trademark, and 2) Gapnote’s use creates likelihood of consumer confusion in commerce.  The first task will be easy, the second, not so much.  The Gap’s lawyers claim that Gapnote intends to infringe on the tradename to generate interest in its product by deceiving consumers into believing some sort of association with The Gap.

The Gap wants 2 things: 1) Gapnote changes its name, and 2) Gapnote gives up the URL Gapnote.com.

The Gap’s lawyers point out the following as proof of infringement:

  • Similarity to The Gap’s font in Gapnote’s logo.
  • Adding “note” does not distinguish it sufficiently.
  • Proximity of the goods and services marketed is extremely close.
  • Identical marketing channels.

This looks and smells like a case where a large, established company is trying to use its weight to boss around a small new entrant.  It does not seem that Gapnote has any intention of becoming an apparel store or selling any type of clothing.  Gapnote’s logo is similar to The Gap’s old logo, but not the “Blue Box” referenced earlier in this post.  The Gap’s main trade channel is still in-person purchases at its store.  Gapnote is strictly an online social networking service.

Would there ever be any actual confusion?  Might someone go to Gapnote.com under the impression that it was owned by or affiliated with The Gap?  I can’t see this ending as a victory for The Gap, unless Gapnote gives up due to the cost of fighting a legal battle.

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