The Italian Criminal Supreme Court (hereafter, the "Supreme Court") recently upheld the decision of the Criminal Court of Rome regarding the counterfeiting of the famous scooter's distinctive logo, as well as many products and gadgets directly associated with the image of the well-known scooter.
The decision of the Supreme Court established that the mere reproduction of an image of the vehicle, even without the word “Vespa” itself, can be considered a criminal offence. Such conduct would amount to the “introduction and commercialization of counterfeited products into the Italian State”.
In the case at stake, the Vespa image was noted to be able to cause confusion among consumers in relation to the origin of such a product and its manufacturer.
The Supreme Court stated that portraying the Vespa’s logo on gadgets and products amounts to unlawful conduct, even if the trademark has not been identically reproduced, since the figurative model triggers a clear and immediate reference to a broadly known motor vehicle as well as its trademark.
In conclusion, the Vespa’s shape is considered a trademark itself. It is the distinctive sign of a specific product and it can stimulate spontaneous association with the scooter among consumers.
This decision of the Supreme Court suggests the importance of taking great care in commercializing products that represent important and iconic national trademarks, and the need for importers and distributors to obtain proper legal advice.