A little earlier this year, a court in Turin, Italy ruled in favor of Piaggio & C. S.P.A., the company that makes the iconic Vespa® scooter. A company in China had copied the design for the scooter and was selling its product in Italy.
The ruling was based on both Piaggio’s copyright and five “3-D” trademark registrations in Italy for their scooter design. It’s a big deal that the trademarks were part of the ruling because the copyright will expire but the trademark registrations, as we’ve learned, can live forever.
Piaggio presented evidence of how well-recognized the Vespa is. They conducted a survey and were able to show that 85% of the people in the survey could recognize the contours and design of a Vespa. The percent grew to 95% when the pool was limited to people who regularly ride scooters.
In other words, just by looking at a drawing of a scooter, 85% of Italians could tell which scooters were made by Piaggio. That’s one hell of a strong brand.
So, does that mean no one else can make scooters? You already know the answer to that question is no.
But it does mean you can’t make a scooter that incorporates the iconic elements of the Vespa design.
What’s the lesson here: Figure out why customers want your stuff and then make sure you protect the hell out of whatever it is that distinguishes you from your competition.