« October 2007 | Main | December 2007 »

November 30, 2007

It's a Gas, Gas, Gas!

We've seen a "Louis Vuitton" grenade -- now bring on the designer gasmasks!

Artist and advertising impresario Diddo Velema makes manifest a portrait of our warfare with ourselves and our ecosystem, in which "fear stems from our extreme desire for authenticity and manifests itself in our collectively insatiable culture of consumption.  Deep down, we are afraid we may never be satisfied." 

Breathing through luxury logos and precious gems probably won't assuage our anxieties -- but a rather sophisticated visual laugh at the idea just might.  In other words, a Gucci gasmask may be the perfect holiday gift for the lady or gentleman who has everything (but probably shouldn't). 

And speaking of perpetual anxieties, note the long version of the legal disclaimer -- it's just art! -- though "copyright infringement" should probably have read "trademark infringement" here. 

November 28, 2007

Grand Theft Auto

Some goods are purely functional.  Others serve mainly to express the identity of the owner.  And still others -- like designer handbags or the latest electronic gadgets -- do both.  Automobiles clearly belong in that last category -- just check out eco-trendy Prius dude in the next lane or mid-life-crisis guy in the red convertible at the stoplight. 

But why stop with an off-the-lot model when custom interiors and elaborate paint jobs are available?  Sheepskin seats, fuzzy dice, and flames painted on the hood are just the beginning.  While Louis Vuitton may not have appreciated Britney Spears' automotive homage, other LV fans worldwide are taking their brand loyaties out for a spin.

Thanks to OmniBeetle01

Thanks to kwadoesj

Thanks to Vickles

Thanks to MizzHanabi

Click these pics for a closer look and more detail -- but don't delay.  Unless these rides are speedy enough to outrun the long arm of trademark law, the result could be an auto-da-fe.

November 27, 2007

Black Friday Fakes and Cyber Monday Scams

Amid nervous projections of retail malaise this holiday season, counterfeit goods are bound to prosper, right?  After all, consumers dismayed by high gas prices, a soft housing market, and other inhospitable indicators may well turn to fakes for their style fix.

Think again.

According to the New York Post, Manhattan street peddlers are feeling pinched by lack of interest from potential buyers and increased attention from the police.  One watch dealer complained that his folding-table display generated $800 in sales on the day after Thanksgiving last year -- but only $200 this Black Friday.

And what of Cyber Monday, the day when we return to the office and begin our online holiday shopping, sometime between interminable meetings and emails from the boss?  Judging from the amount of Monday morning spam offering genuine replica goods, counterfeiters are out looking for a holiday score -- but, according to MarkMonitor's information-packed Brandjacking Index, so are phishers and gift card scammers.  It remains to be seen whether the heightened perils of typing in a credit card number on a shady site and pressing "enter" will affect internet shopping patterns.

In the meantime, enjoy the office parties and eggnog excesses.  Oh, and watch out for this guy...

Steven Hirsh photo of Alabama tourist Mike Dunn

...whom the Post snapped showing off his new $20 "Rolex."  If he's your Secret Santa, you're better off with a lump of (candy) coal.

November 26, 2007

Counterfeit Coffee Break 6

Today's counterfeit coffee break poses a corporate conundrum:  What if you've been knocked off by God?  (Or at least someone who speaks to -- and about, and perhaps for -- Him regularly?)

A New Yorker article on the spread of megachurches to the once staunchly Protestant and now culturally Catholic New England area features Pastor Frank Santora, his Faith Church, and its invitation to spend your day of rest with an infusion of caffeine.  It's not clear from the article whether SonBucks actually sells coffee -- unlike at StarBucks, the baristi are reportedly volunteers -- but the reporter observed members of the congregation as they "drifted into the sanctuary, some carrying their Styrofoam cups with them."  Why settle for communion wafers and wine when you could be giving thanks for a cappuccino?

Of course, SonBucks coffee raises ethical and doctrinal questions as well.  "Thou shalt not steal" others' trademarks to sell coffee (Exodus 20:15), but then again, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  And if God created everything in the first place, what's a little trademark infringment and/or dilution among the faithful? 

Still, I wouldn't necessarily stand under the SonBucks sign in a thunderstorm....

P.S.  For more examples of logo-based evangelism, check out this post from Copywrite (via Likelihood of Confusion).

November 24, 2007

The Manolo's Guide to Holiday (Photo)Shopping

The Manolo and his elegantly shod readership have most graciously sent Counterfeit Chic a real turkey -- and not the tasty Thanksgiving variety. 

Yes, it's Steve Madden.  Again.  It seems that Mr. Madden, not content with pilfering Christian Louboutin's elegant shoe designs or signature red soles, may have turned to stealing photos of the master's shoes as well.  Compare Saks' picture of the Louboutin "Miss Fred Tacco" (left) with the Madden "Becks":

Which convinced you -- the identical patent leather reflections, the perfect camera angle, or perhaps the suspiciously similar shoelaces?  Although the background and red soles appear to have been erased, you are presumably not fooled by the many-colored wonders of Photoshop -- and nor is the law.

Steve Madden Becks in blue, red, and cognac

True, M. Louboutin's talented hands are probably tied, at least with respect to intellectual property law.  U.S. law does not protect his designs, and while he has applied for a trademark on his red soles, Steve Madden has finally learned not to copy that presumably protectable element. 

U.S. copyright law, however, has a thing or two to say about commercial misuse of a photo.  Assuming that the Becks shot is merely an unauthorized, altered version of Miss Fred Tacco's best angle, the owner of the copyright in the photo has a cause of action against Steve Madden.  That copyright holder could be the original photographer, or Saks Fifth Avenue, or even Christian Louboutin himself in the unlikely event that he supplied the photo. 

The fact that an image has been substantially changed does not eliminate the the cause of action in copyright; it merely turns the offending imitation from an unauthorized copy into an unauthorized derivative work.  And while copyright law includes substantial provisions for fair use, no lawyer who can spell "copyright" (that's "right," not "write" or "rite") would argue that taking one online catalog photo for use in another catalog fits the criteria. 

But what if the photographer were a freelancer who cleverly kept the copyright in the photo and licensed its use to both Saks and Steve Madden?  In that unusual scenario, there would be no cause of action in copyright.  It could still be considered fraudulent, however, to picture one item for sale and then substitute another.  As the Manolo muses, "this leaves the Manolo wondering exactly what the Becks looks like."  Not, of course, that our fashionable friend has any intention of finding out.

Bottom line:  Christian Louboutin cannot stop Steve Madden from copying his coveted designs.  Yet.  But the mere click of a shutter created an image that has infinitely more legal protection that the pictured shoe itself, and the copyright holder may not appreciate its reappearance elsewhere.  Moreover, it's not nice to fool potential customers with false representations of the goods.  So, legally speaking, Steve Madden may have stepped in it once again -- and his lawyers had better put down their Thanksgiving forks and pick up their pens. 

Many thanks to His Superfabulousness for sending the link, and to eloquent reader Victor Ramirez for asking Counterfeit Chic to comment on such "tomfoolery."

P.S.  Here's yet another example of Steve Madden's "admiration" for Christian Louboutin -- is there such a thing as a design stalker? 

Christian Louboutin created "Emily" exclusively for RM's online runway show at Net-a-Porter.  It hasn't yet shipped, but it's also for pre-order as Steve Madden's "Chap" (with color variations).

November 20, 2007

Gourmet Spam

Every bright new technology casts a shadow -- and for email, that dark side is spam.  You can fight it with filters, you can unsubscribe from as many lists as possible, you can delete it...or, like artist and illustrator Linzie Hunter, you can embrace it.

Linzie was inspired by the spam one-liners in her inbox to create a series of "experiments with hand lettering" -- a nice complement to her digitally created work.  Think there's nothing in particular to be gleaned from junk email?  Behold the soul of a spam:

Repl1ka Watches from Linzie Hunter's Spam One-liners

"Repl1ka watches," with its clever emphasis on the "look," is Counterfeit Chic's favorite, naturally -- but don't miss the rest of Linzie's incredibly creative cultural commentary!

UPDATE:  Select prints available at Thumbtack Press -- for less than the cost of many "repl1ka" watches!

November 19, 2007

Oops! She Did It Again: Britney Spears' Flying Fake

What cosmic counterfeiting conspiracy has compelled mention of Britney on this page twice in a month?  It's a vision best avoided -- as is Britney Spears' 2005 video "Do Something," which features the singer and friends in a flying pink Hummer upholstered in Louis Vuitton Murakami cherry blossoms.  Counterfeit, of course.

A French court has levied a fine of 80,000 euros (nearly USD $120,000) against Sony BMG and its subsidiary Zomba Label Group, as well as MTV Online, which displayed the clip on its website.  In addition, the court ordered the video removed from distribution, including via the internet, with additional fines of 1,000 euros per day until the companies do so. 

At that rate, Britney could've hired Takashi Murakami to draw the flowers personally....

November 18, 2007

Couture in Court 5

For those who prefer briefs to boxers, a periodic collection of fashionable events in the judicial system:

Finally, in a bit of movie madness, Paramount Apparel is suing to defend its Big Chill mark against alleged infringement by The Children's Place.  An ordinary case involving kid's coats -- but with a cinematic twist.  

Paramount Apparel has no apparent relation to Paramount Pictures, despite its oh-so-subtle film logo.  And even if it did, The Big Chill was a Columbia Pictures production.  Pass the popcorn -- this could be interesting.

November 17, 2007

Give 'Em Hell, Harvey!

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein may not be a longtime fashionista, but he's quickly becoming a dedicated follower of fashion.  Not only does the Weinstein Company co-produce Project Runway and co-own the Halston brand, but under the tutelage of his fiancee, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, he's developed a tremendous appreciation for the talent and hard work behind the glamour. 

WWD's Marc Karimzadeh reports that when a manufacturer boasted of plans to copy a Marchesa gown straight off the red carpet, Weinstein was shocked to learn that U.S. fashion designers have little or no recourse against design piracy.  Since then, Weinstein has made it his business to change the law.  In his words:

I might not know how to sew a dress and I might not know how to design a piece of jewelry, but I'm pretty good in a street fight and I bet you I get this bill [the Design Piracy Prohibition Act] passed.

Not a bad legacy for "a boy from Queens whose socks never matched." 

November 14, 2007

Twice Bitten: Louis Vuitton v. Haute Diggity Dog

Remember last year's dogfight between scrappy startup Haute Diggity Dog and pedigreed champion Louis Vuitton Malletier?  It turns out that not only did the trial court rule that the "Chewy Vuiton" [sic] squeaky toys were a protected parody, but the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 4th Circuit agrees (albeit with somewhat different reasoning). 

LV Cerises and Multicolore

Haute Diggity Dog parodies

Pamela Reeder, co-founder with Victoria Dauernheim of Haute Diggity Dog, was kind enough to take a break from celebrating and not only send Counterfeit Chic the much-anticipated appellate decision, but also share some fascinating details and personal observations about her brush with the law.  I'm almost sleep-typing at the moment, so to do the story justice I'll have to wait for another post. 

In the meantime, you might ponder Pamela's report that LV's creative director Marc Jacobs thought the "Bark Jacobs" toys were funny -- and that several orders were placed for his namesake boutiques.  The goods were returned when LV turned out to be somewhat less amused.  (Although I can personally confirm that LV lawyers can be charming individuals with fully functioning senses of humor, and probably even love puppies, protecting a famous trademark can be an unforgiving task, especially when the label's designer is a bit of a free spirit.)

$300,000 legal bill or not, Pamela would do it all again.  She even offered some wonderful thoughts about the U.S. legal system.  But despite her continuing admiration for Marc Jacobs (and the designer raincoat still hanging in her closet), she won't be carrying a Louis Vuitton -- real or fake. 

November 13, 2007

Try It Now: Tiffany v. eBay

Just in time for holiday shopping -- not to mention engagement ring season -- Tiffany has finally proceeded to trial against eBay, claiming that the "overwhelming majority" of "Tiffany" jewelry sold on the auction site is counterfeit. 

Should Tiffany be responsible for monitoring sales and reporting fakes to eBay?  Or should eBay have to take a more active role -- or else be liable for damages, by analogy to a landlord who knowingly profits from illegal activities on the premises?  A bench trial in the Southern District of New York, presided over by Judge Richard Sullivan, is expected to answer questions pending since 2004, when Tiffany filed its original complaint.  But whether the judge is a fan of little blue boxes or of shopping victoriously, one thing is certain:  If and when he issues a decision, there will be an appeal. 

For more information and analysis, visit Peter Lattman at the WSJ Law Blog (original complaint & answer included) and Ron Coleman at Likelihood of Confusion (whose original analysis of the subject may have inspired Tiffany). 

UPDATE:  And for still more commentary, including quotes from your favorite law prof, check out Amy Scott's broadcast on Marketplace and Liza Casabona's analysis in WWD.  Thanks for calling -- and for talking to me in transit, between Amtrak announcements!

November 12, 2007

Britney Spears: Gimme More Fakes

Britney may have fallen low on the celebrity food chain -- and even been accused of carrying a fake bag herself -- but who knew that she would be endorsing counterfeits on YouTube? Check out "her" brazen new video before it disappears.

Truth be told, PerfectionBags' videography may be more self-aware, and offer more commentary on consumer culture, than the original. Not that it's legal or anything.

November 10, 2007

Accept No Substitutes

November isn't exactly an inspirational month.  Chilly rain, grey days, dead leaves -- even Thanksgiving dinner is often marred by those icky little marshmallows scattered over otherwise perfectly respectable sweet potatoes.  (Yes, I can feel the waves of outrage from those of you who wouldn't sit down at the table without the promise of those sticky-sweet globules.  On the other hand, I just got out of having to prepare candied yams, perhaps forever.) 

Imagine my surprise, then, when I turned over the page of my Cavallini & Co. vintage ad-themed calendar to find the following November gem:

Judging from the fact that the Borsalino company has been producing hats since 1857 -- and the distressed look on the monkey's face -- the real thing is "inimitable" indeed.  Interestingly, the official Milanese stamp on the ad is dated 1923, a time of intense debate over creation v. evolution -- and just 2 years before the famous Scopes Monkey Trial in the U.S.  We may share more than 96% of our DNA with chimps, but apparently the style gene is pure human. 

November 07, 2007

Funny Girls

Think the idea of dressing your wee bairns in genuine designer labels is a bit premature?  So does Deadly Girl Couture -- but the label isn't above poking a bit of gentle fun at the idea. 

Check out Gucci Coo, Louis Spitton, Pradada, Dolce & Grandpa (and Dolce & Grandma, naturally), and finally Burpberry -- complete with the Burberry knight transformed into a rocking horse.   

Deadly Girl Couture Burberry parody

Best of all -- and perhaps helpful should the need of a parody defense arise -- there's not a bit of plaid in sight. 

Of course, the Deadly Girls will no doubt want to keep close watch on a case involving the similarly brand-conscious comediennes over at Haute Diggity Dog (appellate decision pending after oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on September 26 -- stay tuned). 

Many thanks to brilliant and distinguished Fordham law grad Brit Payne for the tip. 

November 06, 2007

Knockoff News 72

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

Zoo York Doodle messenger (left, USD $36.50) and Forever 21 Cali ($15.80)

And finally, a brief celebration of intellectual property and the first Tuesday in November.  (Yes, that's what you forgot to do today -- vote.)  You still have a year to get to the polls and decide whose carefully maintained Presidential image you prefer...

...but if you're a resident of Burlington, Iowa, there's a candidate who's asking for your support now.  Not only in the voting booth, but in his -- er -- misunderstanding with the Campbell Soup Company.  M'm -- not so good. 

November 04, 2007

Counterfeit Chic's 2nd-Favorite Oxymoron

Original Fake does it again -- this time with signature-X shoes that look as if they might be worn by its bizarre action figures. 

Is the consumer appeal "original" or "fake"?  Or perhaps both, in a strategy that calls to mind countercultural conformity?  Then again, maybe they're just cute slippers aiming for an edge. 

Many thanks to Ben Barren for posting the ad!

November 02, 2007

Smuggling Vuitton Fakes