Article 20 of the Italian Industrial Property Law (Legislative Decree 30/2005) regulates the rights to which the trademark owner is entitled: "(...) c) a sign identical or similar to the registered trademark for goods or services, even if they are not similar, if the registered trademark has a reputation in the national territory and if the use of the sign, even for purposes other than distinguishing the goods and services, takes unfair advantage of, or is detrimental to, the distinctive character or the repute of the trademark without due cause". This enhanced protection is intended to prevent the distinctive character of the mark with a reputation from being damaged and attacked by free riders, i.e. by the advantages gained by a third party from the use of a sign identical or similar to the mark with a reputation.
In a recent decision of the Court of Cassation (Judgment No. 27217 of 07.10.2021), the protection application of the famous fashion house Gucci, which had requested the cancellation of the registration of two trade marks by a Chinese company on the grounds of "lack of novelty", was granted. The Court of Appeal had dismissed the application on the grounds that customers of the Gucci mark were accustomed to recognising and distinguishing the well-known mark from other similar marks and that the characteristics of the Chinese company's mark made it possible to distinguish the products.
However, according to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal did not take into account the development of EU case law, according to which a likelihood of confusion is not required to establish infringement, as a link between the sign and the mark is sufficient. The Court of Cassation then underlined how the younger sign (in this case, that of the Chinese company) can benefit from the attraction, reputation, prestige and image of the well-known mark (in this case, Gucci). Finally, it was pointed out that "the more distinctive and well-known the mark in question, the more likely it is that infringement will be found to have occurred; moreover, the more likely it is that the present or future use of the sign will take unfair advantage of, or be detrimental to, the distinctive character or repute of the mark, the more likely it is that the use of the sign will take unfair advantage of, or be detrimental to, the distinctive character or repute of the mark. exploits or detracts from the distinctive character or repute of the mark, the greater the more immediate and powerful the recollection of the mark by the later sign." This is certainly a step forward for the enhanced protection of well-known marks.