Fashion giant Gucci has suffered a serious blow in its near-decade-long battle against an Italian shoe manufacturer.

Gucci shoes have long been known for incorporating a distinctive “horsebit”-style metal chain across their uppers. So distinctive is this feature, that Gucci, founded in Tuscany in 1921, maintains a longstanding trademark protecting its “horsebit” in the US.

The situation differs in Italy, however, where Gucci has been engaged in a long-running dispute with Italian shoe manufacturer Silvano Lattanzi, which uses a similar metal chain in some of its footwear. Having undertaken confiscation proceedings against Silvano Lattanzi back in 2011 (aided by the Italian authorities), Gucci has accused the smaller manufacturer of infringement and counterfeiting, something Silvano Lattanzi rejects on the grounds that it has been incorporating such a feature on its shoes since the early 1970s. Gucci’s trademark, meanwhile, was registered in 2005, although it has been using its horsebit since the 1950s.

In response to Gucci’s action, Silvano Lattanzi argued that the horsebit was not capable of constituting a trademark, and, in any event, similar metal-chains have been incorporated into shoe designs since 1938, if not earlier.

Having languished in the Italian courts for almost a decade, the case has now been decided in Silvano Lattanzi’s favor, meaning that Gucci’s claim to a trademark on the metal chain has been declared invalid, and that Silvano Lattanzi can continue making shoes that incorporate such a feature.

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