Ryan Gile reports that Cartier is upping the ante on its efforts to assert its IP rights in the “Tank watch,” shown below, and has sued Donna Karen over its knockoffs of El Tanque.

This is interesting to LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®, because we have some background in watch trademark work and represented Cartier in what seems to have been the first of these suits (in terms of recent vintage) several years ago.  It was based on infringement of a number of Cartier models on several different theories.  In that matter we were proceeding against a Diamond District producer of fairly rank knockoffs.  Now, the infringement claim as to the Tank may be more attenuated, or perhaps not; but the change of defendants to a known fashion-industry company is certainly newsworthy.  It represents a distinct announcement of seriousness by Cartier’s IP management that it will not overly defer to the sort of “gentlemen’s agreement” that often keeps lawsuits such as this one between known names from happening.

Or not.  There is a difference between the “fine Swiss watches” category and “designer watches” category, even when the latter constitutes fine jewelry of very high quality and value.  The best Donna Karen, Ralph Lauren or Roberto Coin watch will never be considered, in the watch world, the equal of an entry-level Rolex or Cartier watch, much less a Patek Philippe, Blancpain or Piaget.  Cartier may seem to bridge this gap, being both in the fine jewelry and watch spaces, but in fact it transcends it:  It has, for over a century, designed and produced very high quality watches (unlike the typical Johnny-come-latelies that merely have expanded across the glass showcase) that have also established high-water marks for design, both in terms of beauty and influence.

Not that we’re trying to get the Cartier work back or anything (long story, and I love the boys who are handling it now!).  But we would sure like a genuine Tank watch!

By Ron Coleman

I write this blog.