A small Aboriginal-run business has conceded to rebranding, bringing an end to the two-year long legal battle with US clothing giant Gap Inc. And it all resulted in adding an ‘s’ to their name.
In April 2019, co-founder and managing director of Clothing the Gaps, Laura Thompson received a cease-and-desist letter from The Gap. What followed for the small independent business was a rollercoaster of confusion and emotional toll.
Clothing the Gaps is a not-for-profit business funding health initiatives for Aboriginal people through fashion. The brands name is a reference to the government initiative, Closing the Gap. A yearly report aimed at improving the socio-economic state of Aboriginal people.
After trying to register the brands original name, the Gap Inc challenged it over the use of ‘gap’ in their name. Which cited a trademark infringement. Ms Thompson told the ABC,
“When we registered Clothing The Gap with the trademark through Spark Health, I guess we thought it was a play on words with closing the gap… We never at all anticipated or hadn’t even really thought of The Gap clothing at all, when we registered it.”
Ms Thompson had feared that rebranding the company would result in a loss of customers and supporters. In November, a judge found in favour of Gap Inc. In a Facebook post, the company commented,
“We did put up a fight at the trademark tribunal in opposition, but the judge decided that there was ‘contextual confusion’ and ‘deceptive similarity has been established’.”
Afterwards, they decided not to pursue the matter any further. The small business now has until July 31st to rebrand to ‘Clothing the Gaps’ and sell all merchandise with the old branding.
“I couldn’t put a finger on the final financial costs. But I think the fact that we’ve reached the decision has sort of reduced that emotional toll,” she said. “[We’re grateful] for them to allow us to continue to use the word Clothing The Gaps — we didn’t have to completely rebrand everything.”
At the time of registration, Clothing the Gaps did not have a physical store. The differences in power and influence between the two stores is staggering. But the two-year legal battle has not caused the small business to stray from their original goal. This was to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous groups.
“One of the areas that we focus on in closing the gap is that young Aboriginal people, Indigenous people are engaged in employment and education,
“We’re proud and that we’ve got a cohort of probably about 15 young Aboriginal people that are employed through our social enterprise, and that were able to further engage a lot more of the Aboriginal community in the programs that we run.
“We were Clothing The Gap before and now we’re Clothing The Gaps. We’re targeting more than one gap in the community.”
Shop for hats, tees, jumpers and bags at Clothing the Gaps here.
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