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February 28, 2006

Disparaging or Merely Descriptive?

Can "Not Made in China" be trademarked?

And are trademark offices a new hotspot in the culture wars?

IP Dragon, an interesting blog dedicated to "gathering, commenting and sharing knowledge about IP in China to make it more transparent," reports that Gibraltar-based Alvito Holdings has submitted three verbal and figurative applications for "Not Made in China" to the European Union's Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), while an unrelated individual has submitted five such applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The applications cover categories such as clothing and leather goods.

Apparently China isn't pleased. 

At least as far as the U.S. is concerned, however, "Not Made in China" may be a tempest in a teapot.  A similar attempt to register "Not Made in France" for clothing resulted in a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision that the mark was "merely descriptive" and therefore unregistrable.  In re: VRBIA, 2004 TTAB Lexis 703 (not citable as precedent). 

And unless current trends in garment manufacturing are reversed, a "Not Made in USA" mark may one day be simply superfluous.

P.S.  The Trademark Blog, Marty Schwimmer's intelligent and informative site, has updated information on the U.S. applications.

February 27, 2006

Law & Econ Discovers Fashion

Law & Economics, the signature legal theory of the 1980s (with its foil Critical Legal Studies), has been applied to everything from accidents to ownership -- and now fashion knockoffs.

The heart of the law & economics approach to fashionable knockoffs is the fashion cycle theory, which has been around since at least the 1920s.  In brief, Kal Raustiala & Chris Sprigman argue that the relative lack of intellectual property protection for fashion is justified by a persistent equilibrium that accomodates both creativity and copying.  (I presume that in the final draft they will acknowledge our many scholarly predecessors who have also analyzed the fashion cycle.)  Since most IP professors have spent the last decade arguing that IP law had gotten out of hand and overprotection abounds, the tendency is to celebrate this pocket of low protection. 

This work, however, doesn't reflect (1) an accurate history of the fashion industry's persistent attempts to gain legal protection over the last century, (2) extralegal attempts, including the leveraging of social norms, to control copying where law was unavailable, (3) the role of longstanding foreign protection in the development of the global fashion industry, (4) the redistributive results of this relative lack of protection, (5) recent pressures on the fashion industry resulting from the flow of information and the changed loci of production, and, most importantly, (6) the embedded cultural attitudes (including the roles of gender and class) that have contributed to lesser protections for the clothing industry in the U.S. 

In my own reseach (draft to follow), I have incorporated recent approaches to law -- informed by Cultural Studies,  Cognitive Science, and Legal History -- to explore the lower protections provided to the fashion industry.  My goal is not necessarily prescriptive; that is, I didn't set out to "prove" that low protection is good and high protection bad, or vice versa.  In fact, I believe that this binary approach oversimplifies the field of intellectual property law.

Instead, my theoretical approach to intellectual property protection has been to examine less protected areas of human creativity and to compare them with highly protected but equally creative areas.  (Hence my book on collective cultural production.)  This comparison, combined with a bit of history, reveals the cultural preferences at the heart of intellectual property law and can provide a starting point for rationalizing the system.  Consider the fact that neither poetry nor fashion needs protection to exist, yet one has full copyright protection and the other does not.  It's important to understand why.

For the field of fashion design, an analytical approach that takes seriously both the industry (and its various players) and the (typically female) customer is long overdue.

As a woman law professor who has kept a file on law & fashion for nearly a decade, but was told not to write on such a "frivolous" and feminine topic (see Kenji Yoshino's Covering, which he and I discussed in this context recently), I'm very pleased that the law guys are catching up -- so kudos to Kal & Chris.  And thanks for sending me your paper.  The more voices, the more seriously the topic will be regarded.  Finally.

L'Ultima Cena della Moda

The Ultimate Dinner Party?  Creative blogger/designer Verbal Croquis has turned us all into hosts and hostesses for this week's Carnivale of Couture, courtesy of The Manolo

With the perhaps perverse idea of bringing together couture originals and copyists, Counterfeit Chic requests the honor of the following presences:

Coco Chanel, the site's PS/AA and a woman with a great deal to say on the subject of copying, most of it favorable.  But what would Mademoiselle think of

Karl Lagerfeld, who has risen to fame and been hailed as a genius while copying her work for the house of Chanel?  Would she be flattered, or treat him like a dull schoolboy?  Of course, the Kaiser doesn't only copy Coco.  He joins

Fida Naamneh, an Israeli Arab designer who deliberately embroidered three of the 99 names of Allah onto the low-cut dress that was her final project in college.  (Hat tip to Blingdom of God.)  Her choice of decoration was intentional, whereas Karl's use of Qur'anic verses on a bustier was apparently accidental.  Appropriation of cultural property can be volatile, however; both designers aroused the ire of followers of

The Prophet Mohammed.  While his writing long predated copyright claims, he might have a few things to say about its use on women's clothing.  In fact, we'd like to ask him a few questions about his actual words and their subsequent influence on women's dress in general.  (No group pictures, we promise.)

Having crossed into the surreal, we'd enjoy the guidance of artist Salvador Dali, a frequent collaborator in the 1930s couture creations of

Elsa Schiaparelli.  Her famous lobster dress and shoe hat were the result of such art-into-fashion experiments, which eschewed the minimalism of her archrival Coco Chanel.  Indeed, Schiap's response to Chanel's praise of copying (and her empire of faux bijoux) is apparent in the belief that "fashion is born by small facts, trends, or even politics, never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt." 

Let the games begin!  Dinner is served.  And if the presence of the prophet doesn't promote at least temporary peace between Schiap (irresistable force) and Coco (immovable object), this may indeed be Fashion's Last Supper. 

P.S.  Counterfeit Chic was fascinated by the French and Italian legal responses to another Ultimate Dinner Party of sorts (above), presented last year by the French fashion house Girbaud.  Presumably this Carnivale will be somewhat less controversial.

February 26, 2006

Knockoff News 7

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and copying in general from around the globe:

Ciao, Italia!  To wrap up both Milan Fashion Week and the Winter Olympics, here's our featured article:

Apparently U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir is particularly fond of the "Made in Italy" label, but only if it's genuine:

Weir considers clothes and handbags and sunglasses his children. He believes in buying real designer stuff; when he sees someone with a knockoff handbag, "it hurts my feelings," he says.

Is there a sports psychologist in the house?

February 24, 2006

The Man of ... Silk?

In honor of the first New York Comic-Con this weekend, here's a look back at Superman's triumph over one of Metropolis' most nefarious villains -- The Dude!  Note the measuring tape whip, the white tie & tails, the phalanx of unhappy women in lookalike dresses....

Superman #23

Never heard of The Dude?  Well, neither had Superman -- until the summer of 1943, when Clark Kent was forced to accompany Lois Lane on a shopping expedition.  She bought an expensive, one-of-a-kind dress (French, of course), only to see a cheap imitation in a dress shop in a "down-and-out neighborhood."  Shocked, Miss Lane demanded her money back -- and mustered both her feminine outrage and her journalistic instincts to expose the knockoff racket.  Naturally, she endangered herself in the process, requiring Superman to come on the scene, avoid a not-so-clever trap, and vanquish The Dude. 

The story has it all -- our favorite gendered industry (and its seedy side), class issues, French styles, creativity, copying, a smart woman on the case....  But if the Man of Steel was uncomfortable in a women's clothing store, why was Jerry Siegel, one of the original creators of Superman and the author of "Fashions in Crime!" so concerned? 

Well, knockoffs were perhaps an even more widely discussed issue back then than today.  (In the comic, after Lois Lane publishes her original story, "Feminine readers flock to the Daily Planet in droves.")  And Siegel's mind was on copyright issues.  He was already uncomfortably aware that he and his partner, Joe Shuster, has signed away the rights to Superman for a song; moreover, DC comics was engaged in a series of ongoing legal battles, claiming that other companies' superheroes infringed on Superman.  So perhaps he had some sympathy for upscale fashion designers, or at least the women who wore them.

The real question is why a guy in tights and a cape felt the need to deny an interest in fashion.

February 23, 2006

Thinly Veiled Strategy

Is J.C. Penney's promoting anorexia?

The department store recently announced the debut of "a.n.a," a new private label collection.  While the company claims that the initials stand for "a new approach," the term "ana" is also used to refer to the eating disorder, and "pro-ana" websites are common.  The fashion industry has a habit of appropriating questionable subcultures -- remember heroin chic? -- and this one calls into question both taste and corporate judgment.

While I'm no fan of excessive litigation, if tobacco companies can be sued for promoting smoking and fast food companies for promoting obesity, isn't the department store tempting fate? 

In any case, "a.n.a" is definitely a label to be knocked out, not knocked off.

February 22, 2006

Marking Territory

When the law fails to stop knockoffs -- most of the time, in the case of fashion -- manufacturers turn to technology.  In the 1920s, couturiere Madeline Vionnet borrowed a hot tip from criminology and stamped her thumbprint on clothing labels:

This century's technologies are being put to similar use.  Today's Wall Street Journal reports that luxury goods company Fendi had incorporated holograms into its labels:

Meanwhile, scientists are developing DNA technologies to identify consumer goods:

What's next -- "smart" handbags that will recognize and hail other genuine goods?  Embedded microprocessors that will give the wearer access to retail VIP rooms or sample sales?  Geek chic is no longer science fiction; it's fast becoming retail reality. 

Copying for Christ

Of late the current pope's sartorial splendor has been under scrutiny.  The brilliant and often irreverent Blingdom of God goes one step further, suggesting that Benedict XVI follow in the footsteps of his namesake, Benedict XV, who removed the gems from a storied papal tiara, replaced them with glass, and sold the originals to raise money for WWI veterans.

Sacred fakery or faux pas?  From a moral standpoint, surely the former -- after all, the real crowns are supposed to be waiting in heaven.  (See 1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10 ....)

February 21, 2006

Forecasting the Future, Preserving the Past

Beauty may be eternal, but fashion is an ephemeral medium -- "in" today, "out" tomorrow.  Yesterday's old clothes, however, may be tomorrow's "vintage" apparel or design "inspiration."  But how to preserve this legacy?

Today's International Herald Tribune reports that Italian fashion houses are taking matters into their own hands.  While Italy is a world leader in other forms of historic preservation, neither government interest nor funding extends to its most stylish patrimony.  In the absence of state-sanctioned fashion museums (as in France) or an established system of tax write-offs (as in the U.S.), companies like Pucci, Armani, and Fendi are investing in museum-quality storage facilities and archival record-keeping. 

The IHT quotes Laudomia Pucci, daughter of exuberant textile and clothing designer Emilio Pucci, on the value of fashion archives:

"They are such an inspiration for young designers," says Pucci.  "They look at fabrics, proportions, sewing techniques from the past."

Pucci does not intend to throw open the doors of the past to mere knockoff artists, though:

That is not to say, however, that [the archives] are intended to be copied.  "They are a bouncing board for tomorrow," she clarifies.

To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton who paraphrased John of Salisbury who paraphrased Bernard of Chartres (who may have been paraphrasing someone else), "We are like dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants."  Or at least on fabulous platform heels.

Pucci wedge, Lune pink, Spring 2006

February 20, 2006

Whose Sari Now?

The Indian state of Orissa is taking steps to protect its unique, indigenous textile designs, which are being copied and exported by manufacturers in other regions of India.  Under the Geographical Indications Act, the state will patent original "ikat" designs and methods in order to protect local weavers.

Orissa - Ikat patterns

As Diana Vreeland famously declared, "Pink is the navy blue of India!" -- and color is just the beginning.

February 19, 2006

Looking Like $10 Million

For the lucky 7th Carnivale of Couture, I am Fashion has declared us all lottery winners -- and then sent us shopping. 

Before indulging, however, my first impulse is to give a bit back to a good cause.  For last week's Carnivale, I shared a few musings on socially mandated copying in the form of the de facto business uniform.  For many low income women hoping to enter the workplace, however, an appropriate interview suit seems as unattainable as the job itself.  Enter Dress for Success, an organization that helps women secure and retain jobs -- by making sure they have the right clothes in which to do it. 

Does imitating the "right" look matter that much?  Well, it worked for Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (1988).  Instead of letting her boss (Sigourney Weaver) steal her ideas, she transformed herself into the boss, from hair to accent to power suit.  Best line?  "If you want to get ahead in business, you've got to have serious hair." 

Melanie Griffith in Working Girl

Melanie Griffith BEFORE (left) and AFTER.

What about personal expression?  Should women, or men for that matter, have to conform to succeed?  Well, in an ideal world -- or within limits, or after hours, or after you've gotten the job -- creativity rules.  In the meantime, Dress for Success is giving its clients a valuable gift.

P.S.  Lest this post sound a bit "goody-two-shoes," let me assure you that were I to win the lottery, I would never limit my shopping to just two shoes -- but sharing the wealth never hurts.  Here endeth the lesson.  Let the shopping begin!

February 18, 2006

Crocodile Tears

What do you call a group of crocodiles?

If you're a zoologist, it's a "float."  If you're a lawyer, it's a decades-long, multinational trademark battle.

The right-facing croc on the bottom is the logo of the French fashion giant Lacoste (est. 1933), a familiar sight for preppy Western consumers.

The left-facing crocs on top belong to the Hong Kong company Crocodile Garments, which was founded by the brother of Singapore-based Crocodile International (est. 1947).  Under the terms of a 2003 settlement, Crocodile Garments will replace the croc on top with the one in the middle by next month, and will refrain from using the color green in its logo.  Lacoste, for its part, is legally in the right only so long as its crocodile faces right; in 2004 a Shanghai court invalidated its defensive registration of left-facing crocs in China after a challenge from Crocodile International.

Meanwhile, the popularity of the crocodile as an emblem continues:  Lacoste just reached another settlement that will require a new Chinese company, Zhejiang Crocodile Garment, to stop using another similar croc logo within three years. 

For the time being, Lacoste and the Crocodile brothers appear to be united in their desire to focus efforts on counterfeiting of all species of croc logos.  But don't expect peace to reign for long in the animal kingdom.

Now can we talk about global trademarks?

P.S.  Un grand merci to Frédéric Glaize of the fantastic Petit Musée des Marques site for bringing the battle of the crocodiles to my attention and forwarding a great Flickr picture taken in Hong Kong.   (Frédéric charmingly referred to me as a "professeur de droit passionnée par la mode" -- a description that definitely belongs on my new business cards!)

February 17, 2006

Knockoff News 6

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and copying in general from around the globe:

And in honor of this weekend's All-Star game, some advice from the NBA on keepin' it real:

February 16, 2006

Countercultural Copying

Ever wonder how Argentine-turned-Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara ended up as a T-shirt? 

Check out the exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York (through February 26).  Not only are there Che T-shirts from around the world, but also additional evidence of the comandante's commercial appeal, ranging from cigarette lighters to Cherry Guevara ice cream.  (Hello, Ben & Jerry's?)

Photographer Alberto Korda snapped the original shot, "Guerrillero Heroico," in Cuba in 1960, but failed to pay much attention to the copyright.  He apparently never received any royalties for use of the images, but did win at least one out-of-court settlement against an advertiser and claimed to be against the commercial exploitation of the image.  Presumably Che didn't receive any compensation either, even assuming that would have been consistent with his revolutionary Marxist politics.  Today Che's face is a steady source of revenue in Cuba, where T-shirt vendors greet arriving tourists at the airport. 

The specific message of the image, however, has decreased in inverse proportion to its popularity.  Viva la revolucion? Power to the people?  Overthrow the capitalist pigs?  Or just a dramatic, vaguely rebellious image?  You decide.

And meanwhile, take a look at the conservative competition.

February 14, 2006

Couture on Campus

Thanks to the Georgetown University Law Center faculty for engaging my "Counterfeit Chic" presentation at a faculty research workshop today.  Fashion and intellectual property is still an unusual subject for a law school, but both hospitality and interesting questions were in abundance.

I'll keep you updated on the progress of the research, but for the moment I'll just share with you my Valentine's Day ornament, Tobias Wong's "Ballistic Rose" pin, made of heavy duty ballistic nylon (aka Kevlar, a registered trademark of DuPont).  Certainly an interesting commentary on modern romance!

Tobias Wong's Ballistic Rose

The question is, would the pin be subject to copyright? 

Ordinarily, a functional item cannot be copyrighted -- hence fashion's usual dilemma.  If we simply unglued the metal pin from the back of the rose, or replaced the pin with a hook and hung it on the wall, however, we'd have an art object that would be subject to copyright protection.  So the design part of the brooch that is "separable" from its function -- pretty much all of it, save the metal pin -- is subject to copyright.  Strange?  Yes, but the rules about functionality and separability lead to some tortured results.

There is a separate question re: to what extent copyright protects this design, given that it's fairly literal and that making rosettes from fabric is not unusual, but the use of ballistic nylon is an original expression.  So my verdict is for at least some copyright protection, with congratulations to the artist. 

Happy Valentine's Day -- and here's hoping that your roses don't need to be bulletproof!

P.S. Props to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, where I found the pin during the "Extreme Textiles" exhibition.  An institution dedicated to the display of historic and contemporary design is certainly worth a visit, even if they don't have an online museum store! 

February 12, 2006

Suitably Attired for Fall 2006

So many fabulous clothes, but what to wear?  For this week's Carnivale de Couture, the talented Kim at i am pretty nyc suggests a look back at New York Fashion Week (before looking forward to Europe, of course) -- and there's no shortage of choices.

For most of us, though, the morning shuffle through the closet is influenced less by the runway than by our peers.  We want to express ourselves, but generally not to the extent of looking inappropriate or extreme.  Designers exercise their creativity, knockoff artists copy designers, and the rest of us copy ... each other.  That may mean co-workers, the other moms on the playground, or fellow ladies who lunch, but as fashion historian Anne Hollander notes:

It's in fact clear that "uniforms," so vigorously despised in much current rhetoric about clothes, are really what most people prefer to wear, garments in which they feel safely similar to their fellows.  Once in uniform, they can choose their personal details, feel unique, and then sneer at the members of other tribes who all seem ridiculously alike in their tribal gear. 

Some industries are, of course, more sartorially uniform than others.  (I've had the privilege of discussing this issue with both colleagues and students over the years, and I imagine I'll share a few specific thoughts at some point.)  Paul Fussell has the basic plotline:

Despite some relaxation of rigor, it remains true that the dark business suit (or its female equivalent) is still close to obligatory, at least in businesses that have little truck with novelty, like serious law, most banks, and the upper reaches of the securities markets.  The well-advertised dress-down or casual Friday has, of course managed to impose its own uniform conventions....

Law schools probably don't count as "serious law" in terms of sartorial demands -- certainly very few profs would limit themselves to dark suits on a daily basis.  Still, a good suit or jacket is quite useful in getting through the day.  I was pleased to see that some wonderful young designers who spent previous seasons playing with girlish dresses or eveningwear have actually taken on the challenge of the suit (joining perennial American favorites like Donna Karan, a designer who, despite her recent journey through monastic, cocoon-like shapes, built her empire on dressing working women and has returned to the task of late). 

Check out the creative version offered by Doo-Ri Chung (a designer whose work I stumbled upon and loved before I knew her name or even gender) (left) or the more traditional but still clever work of Brian Bradley for Tuleh (right). 

Doo.ri Fall 2006Tuleh Fall 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, they're -- gasp -- plaid (or tartan if you prefer), but looks like this can go a long way toward banishing those old memories of parochial school uniforms.   Which, come to think of it, may have something to do with how many of us respond to the grown-up versions -- at least until Fall 2006.

February 11, 2006

Knockoff News 5

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and copying in general from around the globe:

...and Canal Street

And from the hysterical site IP Funny, proof that while some fashion-related "inventions" can be patented, we really didn't want to copy them in the first place:

February 10, 2006

A Trillion Little Bloggers Can't Be Wrong

Attention academia:  the paper of record has issued a challenge those who would dismiss fashion as mere frivolity. 

In yesterday's New York Times, which prominently featured fashion news in no less than 3 sections, including an above-the-fold picture on the front page, Guy Trebay described the process of trend-spotting:

A pattern emerges, and perhaps it is even one that contains unexpected meanings about where the culture is headed.  Maybe this seems like a nutty assertion to make in regard to fashion, which many still find it easy, if not intellectually obligatory, to dismiss.  But in a culture of surface it's a mistake to ignore the potency of any visual language. 

Given that the Times is obligatory reading on university campuses across the country -- few profs settle for the local paper, especially in if they happen to be in red states -- expect to see a new embrace of fashion and a rise in lectures like "Intertextuality and Intimate Apparel in the Interwar Period" or "Denim and Marxism:  The Androgynous (S)exploitation of Proletarian GarMENts."  And, predictably, a rise in complaints among a certain cadre about why nobody just studies Classics of Western Civilization anymore. 

Of course, it wouldn't be an intellectual challenge without a charming degree of condescension.  Trebay adds:

One good place to check out the number of playful tools for sartorial self-expression in a post-feminist era is the trillion little blogs on MySpace.com.  There are some plural ideas about what constitutes femininity these days....

Well, yes.  Your humble trillion-and-first little blogger said so two weeks ago, as have so many others (I particularly love Jack & Hill's recent post on Fashion as Free Speech). 

I suppose that a trillion little bloggers can't be wrong.  But it's nice of the Times to make it official.

February 09, 2006

The Work of Fashion in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Has last season's new minimalism already given way to the new maximalism?  Some critics observing New York Fashion Week think so.  But perhaps there's more than a mindless swing of the fashion pendulum going on here. 

The presence of passementerie and paillettes at the fall collections this week may be more indicative of a need to distinguish ever-more-expensive designer items from fast fashion knockoffs at H&M, Zara, and the like.  As increased interest in (and decreased availability of) true couture indicates, there is a stratum of customer willing and able to pay for handcrafted detail and elaborate tailoring.  At the next level, the high-end designer ready-to-wear customer still seeks a connection with authentic creativity (rather than mere copies) and the ability to display her discerning taste.  Whatever the appeal of hi-lo styling or "masstige," appreciation for artistry remains.  Hence, the explosion of craftsmanlike detail on the Fall 2006 runways. from the deceptively simple work of Narciso Rodriguez to to the elegant confections of Oscar de la Renta. 

Call it the sociology of sequins.

Oscar de la Renta Fall 2006

February 07, 2006

After a Nuclear Disaster...

...there will still be cockroaches -- and fakes on Canal Street in New York. 

Last Tuesday, LVMH announced a major settlement with a group of Canal Street landlords, in which the landlords agreed not only to ban the sale of counterfeit Louis Vuitton goods on their premises but also to post warning signs:

Last Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg declared February to be Anticounterfeiting Month.  No doubt he and LVMH expected results like this: 

Empty Mall Shop

By last Thursday, however, there were no warning signs to be seen, and the knockoff business was up and running again:

LVMH Knockoffs

Although on Friday the presence of a photographer did make the proprietors a bit nervous:

But at least they didn't pull down the metal security gates and lock me inside the shop this time!

February 06, 2006

From Air Kisses to Double Clicks

Ten years ago, the internet was still a relatively new phenomenon.  And the venerable house of Chanel was not pleased when photographs from its collections appeared online immediately after the shows, enabling copyists around the globe to deliver those styles to stores even before the real merchandise was available.  Before the Fall 1996 collection, audience members received the following warning (in hard copy, of course):

Unless duly authorized, any use, directly or indirectly, through any intermediate or not, with or without charge, in any part of the world, specifically on the Internet, on CD-ROM and on any other multimedia networks and devices, of any images of all or any part of the collection presented in this show, including any images of the models appearing in this show, is strictly prohibited. 

Not satisfied with mere legal warnings, Karl Lagerfeld deluged the audience with so many looks and silhouettes that knockoff artists couldn't select an iconic image from the collection.  The next season, the designer received boos from photographers when he sent his looks for Chloe down a maze-like, difficult to shoot runway. 

Fast forward a decade to the Fall 2006 collections.  Cutting-edge sites like Fashion Tribes are podcasting daily, and IMG is streaming the shows.  And Kaiser Karl himself has teamed up with Apple to offer a free podcast of the first runway show for his eponymous line.  (Look for quilted, logo-stamped Chanel earphones next.)

Karl Lagerfeld

When Fern Mallis, executive director of New York Fashion Week organizer Seventh on Sixth, was asked whether the the increased access would contribute to counterfeiting, she replied:

With media being so fast now...people can get on websites and see collections instantly.  This is really about the entertainment value and the energy and buzz of it. 

So let a thousand flowers bloom -- and keep the lawyers ready just in case.

How would the quintessentially modern Mademoiselle Chanel herself respond to all this?  In her words, "Fashion does not exist unless it goes down to the streets."  Or merges onto the information superhighway. 

Why Cloning is Evil

André may be inimitable, but unfortunately Paris Hilton is not.  Page Six reported yesterday that this year's favorite New York Fashion Week sighting is Natalie Reid, an employee of Screaming Queens Entertainment who looks so much like the notorious heiress that she is ushered to front rows amid paparazzi pandemonium. 

Could the real Paris sue her doppleganger, who charges $750 - $2,000 for appearing at parties and corporate functions, for appropriating her image?  Probably.  But when the two met recently, Paris seemed amused rather than upset.

It seems that no matter what, we'll always have Paris.

February 05, 2006

The Inimitable André

Some people pursue an "it" handbag -- real or fake -- as a status symbol.  Others attempt to share the same "exclusive" venue as celebrities and other wannabes -- St. Barths, Aspen, or (this week) the tents in Bryant Park. 

As New York Fashion Week got underway on Friday, the (unwilling to be linked) Wall Street Journal offered advice to would-be gatecrashers at the see-and-be scene:  beware the fashion police.  Despite this imposing security detail, my own experience is that a determined fashionista can beg, buy, or sneak her way in with relative ease (assuming, of course, that a legitimate invitation is not forthcoming).  It does, however, require a bit of advance research.

Impersonating fashion royalty might work for a lookalike -- but it's doubtful.  And in the case of the WSJ's "diminutive thirtysomething white woman" who claimed to be "Andrea Leon Talley," it was definitely a howler.

Not laughing yet?  The inimitable Vogue Editor-at-Large, André Leon Talley, is indeed quite large -- about 6'7" -- and African American.  When he makes an entrance in a spectacular, one-of-a-kind coat or cape, surrounded by his entourage and flashes from the paparazzi, no introductions are necessary. 

And what's the point of airing your best pre-spring finery if not to be yourself?

February 04, 2006

Knockoff News 4

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and copying in general from around the globe:

And in honor of SuperBowl Sunday:

February 03, 2006

Counterfeits for Katrina Victims -- Again

Copying others' charitable activity?  Probably a good thing, from both an evolutionary and a moral standpoint.  Trademark lawyers, however, may beg to differ.

As Mayor Bloomberg reported at the Harper's Bazaar / Kirkland & Ellis Anticounterfeiting Summit on Wednesday, New York is donating counterfeit fashion items seized by the NYPD to victims of Hurricaine Katrina.  The audience applauded politely, but the mayor didn't exactly receive a standing O. 

La Retrosessuale, one of the fabulous women of ShangriLaw, has clearly retained her generous humanistic instincts despite being subject to a legal education.  She writes that "it is better to let these knockoffs go to use than rot in a plasticine grave somewhere." 

Hardcore intellectual property owners and their lawyers wouldn't be so sure.  Nobody is about to run the public relations risk of taking candy from babies -- or clothing from Katrina victims -- but all trademark owners weren't necessarily thrilled that the small percentage of counterfeit merchandise actually impounded by law enforcement is back on the streets.  And the anticounterfeiting stance of both the federal government and the New York City government may be compromised by these actions.

Last fall, the Legal Times kindly published my editorial on the subject, available here (along with additional blog commentary). 

Which leaves us with the perennial question:  are lawyers human? 

February 01, 2006

Celebrate Black History, not the Black Market

February is Black History Month -- and once again, it's also Anticounterfeiting Month in the City of New York, according to Mayor Bloomberg's official proclamation today at the Harper's Bazaar / Kirkland & Ellis LLP Anticounterfeiting Summit.  In his words, "Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime."

At last year's inaugural event, Valerie Salembier of Harper's Bazaar brought together industry representatives, law enforcement, lawyers, and lobbyists to draw attention to the issue; this year, the focus was on solutions.  Kirkland & Ellis's crack team of anticounterfeiting lawyers, including Joe Gioconda, described the benefits of an strategies for civil litigation at a pre-luncheon seminar.  Later speakers focused on enforcement efforts, including the New York Police Foundation's "Madison Avenue Blue" event, during which retailers will donate the proceeds from selected blue items (get it?) to fund undercover anti-piracy operations.  Education -- of both Western consumers and developing countries like China -- was also on the agenda. 

And it wouldn't be a fashion event if France, which implemented new anticounterfeiting measures last year, didn't have the last word: