Ghastly Gaffe at Gucci

How can you tell whether that guy down at courthouse is a practicing attorney or just someone who wears pinstripes well? 

  • Law degree?  Check.
  • Bar exam passage?  Check.
  • Business cards with a formal title, or at least an "Esq."?  Check.
  • Client?  Check.
  • Case?  Check.
  • Current state bar membership?  Oops.
When Gucci's then-in-house counsel Jonathan Moss first noticed that Guess seemed perhaps a bit too admiring of certain famous Gucci trademarks (you saw it here first, folks!), it seemed that he had everything going for him.  A job with a storied fashion house and a juicy brand protection case to pursue -- what more could a lawyer want?

A reminder to reactivate his long-dormant California bar membership, apparently.  It seems that the New York-based Moss had deactivated his only state bar membership some 13 years before filing the case to avoid the annual fee -- and counsel for defendant Guess noticed.  Now Guess is requesting access to internal Gucci communications with respect to the case, arguing that they are not covered by attorney-client privilege because Jonathan wasn't a licensed lawyer at the time they were made. 

Whether or not the Guess gambit works, and whether or not the court ultimately finds that Guess infringed Gucci's trademarks, this case will be remembered for the error that caused a luxury label to turn its inside counsel out.

gucci_guess_shoes.jpgCounterfeit Chic's sympathy goes out to Jonathan, whom I've met on a number of occasions and whose dedication to defending Gucci's reputation via IP law was readily apparent.  Here's hoping that he'll soon recover from this blow to his own.

And lawyers?  Don't play a Guessing game when it comes to your professional prerequisites.