Don’t Mess With the Gap, Inc.!
By Maria Cheung
Reviewed by Jennifer Williams
We all know the Gap for its traditional and affordable preppy clothes. The brand has dressed its customers since 1969, providing them with a stable source of jeans, crisp button down shirts and stylish t-shirts, among other fashionable staples. I personally love their super-soft pajamas. The Gap’s longevity and devoted customers have allowed the brand to become a commonly recognized producer of unique yet classic clothing garments. Recently however, the Gap, which is owned by its parent company Gap. Inc. (“Gap”), felt that its beloved trademark was threatened by G.A.P. Adventures Inc. (“G.A.P.”), a travel agency. As a result, Gap sued G.A.P. for trademark infringement on its name, alleging consumer confusion as to the clothing brand’s relation to the travel agency.
In the lawsuit, Gap claimed that G.A.P. relied on Gap’s name recognition to initially form trust and credibility with their potential clients. Aside from the name similarity, Gap alleged that the two companies’ logos were similar enough to cause possible consumer confusion. Gap’s trademarks have been uncontested for over five years and are therefore considered valid. This evidence heavily favored Gap and the Second Circuit issued an injunction in August preventing G.A.P. Adventures from using “G.A.P.” or any confusingly similar variations in its name.
I agree with the court’s decision because Gap is a brand that is very well recognized by the public. Although Gap is a clothing line (indicating its mark is a true trademark) and G.A.P. is a travel agency (meaning its mark is a servicemark), the similar logos and names could cause considerable consumer confusion. It could possibly lead Gap customers to believe that the Gap is somehow affiliated with or endorses the G.A.P. travel agency. Although the clothing merchandise and travel agency services are somewhat unrelated, there is strong evidence that there would be consumer confusion between the two companies and under trademark law, this is sufficient to justify an injunction against the less established mark, G.A.P. The court’s decision undoubtedly teaches companies an important lesson: don’t mess with the Gap, Inc.!