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January 30, 2008

Vote for Counterfeit Chic!

Counterfeit Chic is most honored to be nominated for a Fabbie award! 

No promises regarding getting the troops out of Iraq, universal health care, or even a ban on the wearing of Crocs, but Counterfeit Chic will stay the course with news and analysis from the realm of law & fashion.  So sign in, click on over to the "Indie and Niche" category, and vote!


Many thanks to a truly fabulous trio of fashion and lifestyle bloggers, The Manolo of Manolo's Shoe Blog, Tina Craig of Bag Snob, and Lesley Scott of Fashiontribes.com (with the help of Sam Francois of Papierdoll.net, as well as Flux.com and Glam Media) for the nomination. 

Now, what to wear....

January 29, 2008

Couture in Court 6

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

DVF spotted frog design (left) and alleged Target copy

Thanks to all who wanted to make sure Counterfeit Chic didn't ignore DVF's latest salvo!

Stuart Weitzman Chitchat (left) v. J.C.Penney Miss Bisou Sydney

No, that's not all -- there's plenty more Couture in Court below the jump. 

And finally, as your reward for reading all the way to the end, Messrs. Dolce & Gabbana, via Neiman Marcus, offers a most eye-catching answer as to why those girls have gone wild:

Unfortunately, however, Girls Gone Wild prefers that this particular message remain under wraps:

January 28, 2008

Versace Victimizes Louboutin

When President Andrew Jackson learned of the Supreme Court's decision recognizing Native American sovereignty in Wooster v. Georgia, he allegedly retorted, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" 

It seems that Donatella Versace has taken roughly the same attitude toward Christian Louboutin's recent registration of his signature red soles as a U.S. trademark.  Counterfeit Chic has confirmed that the red-soled shoes appearing (on Gisele, no less) in the current Versace ad campaign are not in fact Louboutins. 

Spring 2008 Versace ads

Presumably M. Louboutin has already taken appropriate legal action -- and the disapprobation of the fashion blogosphere will do the rest.  But perhaps he should throw a few Medusa heads into his next collection for good measure? 

Thanks to the elegant and erudite Clare Sauro for sending the Fashion Week Daily link!

January 26, 2008

Knockoff News 76

It's been a while -- but Knockoff News is back by popular demand (thanks, Likelihood of Confusion!).  Here's the latest collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and the culture of copying in general around the globe:

Tavis Coburn's Mao Jordan

And finally, longtime Counterfeit Chic readers will remember Johnny Cupcakes and his ardent admirer, Urban Outfitters.  It seems there's now another clothing conglomerate that finds Johnny's tasty treats too delicious to resist:

If ever copyright infringement could cause cavities, this would be the case.

January 25, 2008

Camera Tricks: Volvo Copies Karl Lagerfeld

Not so long ago, Volvo was all about safety.  Not anymore -- at least when it comes to the automobile company's advertising.

Volvo, capitalizing on Karl Lagerfeld's reputation as a photographer as well as a designer, decided to copy him.  Not once, but (by my count) 17 times, for a Swiss ad campaign.   

Swiss Volvo ad

Apparently the ad agency was counting on Karl's sense of humor and on interviews in which he'd challenged others to copy him.  It seems that the the designer's words were not meant to be taken at face value, however, and that he takes his rights of publicity seriously.  Lagerfeld, who has worked with BMW and Audi, commented after learning of the campaign, "It's not the chicest car I am promoting — without knowing I did it.

The Karl clones will not be making a repeat appearance.

January 22, 2008

Flower Power

According to an article in today's WWD, many designers' strategy for spring is unprintable.  Or nearly unprintable.

As a deterrent to knockoff artists, designer labels are relying on intricate and technically complex fabric prints and surface designs that would be difficult to replicate on the cheap.  In other words, it's no accident that everything's coming up roses -- and peonies, and lillies, and abstract modern blossoms beyond nature's ken -- for spring.   Reporter Alessandra Ilari notes:

[S]ince the new prints are immensely complicated, and, in many cases, hand painted, they're also increasingly a way for designer brands to differentiate themselves from the fast-fashion retailers -- and counterfeiters -- snapping at their heels. 

"One of the main reasons we have chosen to explore two-dimensional design and surface through embroidery is that it is very difficult to copy.  The labor involved is difficult and time-consuming, which makes mass producing and/or copying impossible," asserted Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler.

Added Stefano Gabbana [of Dolce & Gabbana]:  "Though our creativity is never influenced by counterfeiters, whoever wants to copy this collection is in for a tough time." 


"We develop a lot of different versions of an idea, and when we do a print, the idea is to get it to our own stores as quickly as possible, so there is less of a chance of quick knockoffs," [designer Cynthia] Rowley said, adding that what distinguishes a real print from the knockoff is in the quality of the fabric.

Of course, original fabric prints and 2D decoration are subject to copyright, unlike the underlying clothing designs -- a legal protection that designers such as Diane von Furstenberg have successfully invoked against copyists.  But adding a few thorns among the roses isn't a bad idea either.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2008

Related posts:  Inimitable Intricacy, Pattern Recognition

Sartorial Spider Sense

These days Spiderman comic fans are (more or less) relieved to see their favorite superhero looking his red-and-blue best.  Over the past weeks, however, a Marvel comics crossover series entitled Civil War has seen Spidey, a.k.a. Peter Parker, unmasked and imitation Scarlet Spiders wearing copies of a new suit designed especially for the original webspinner.  Needless to say, our khaki-clad hero was not happy: 

Not only did Spiderman refuse to take this sartorial offense sitting down, he even invoked the power of intellectual property law in his defense:

The choice of copyright law is an interesting one here.  Apparel in general is not eligible for copyright protection, although some costume elements -- surface designs, for example, or fanciful masks -- may qualify.  In the case of the new spider suit, however, the garment includes so many functional elements that patent protection might be more appropriate.  Alternatively, Spiderman may have a right of publicity claim against the imposters, since they've attempted to replicate his personna.

Of course, Spiderman is correct in one sense:  Unless we suspend disbelief and enter his virtual world, he's just a 2-dimensional drawing --  and thus subject to copyright protection (and, on other grounds, to trademark protection as well).  Not that this would hamper Marvel artists in their decision to copy his suit for other Marvel characters.  But don't expect D.C. Comics' Superman to be borrowing the web design any time soon.

Back in Peter Parker's world, even thugs aren't impressed by the Scarlet Spiders' attempt to copy the costume and to steal Spiderman's image:

Which only goes to show that while there may be honor among thieves, (intellectual property) thieves are accorded very little honor. 

P.S.  Should anyone else out there be thinking about knocking off Spiderman, think again.  I've met Spidey's lawyer, and while I've never seen him climb walls or spin webs, he definitely rocks.

January 19, 2008

Judging a Rolex

Tune in as Judge David "Justice with a Snap!" Young decides a case involving a Rolex that may or may not be the real thing. 


The judge even has a few words of wisdom for the courtroom -- and notes that "in New York, Rolexes are a dime a dozen." 

And the streets are paved with gold, too. 

January 16, 2008

Vegan Values

Remember when pleather was just cheap?  Now it's morally superior -- at least in vegan circles. 

But does that mean that would-be designers who espouse a philosophy of respect for animal life, eschewing the use of leather, wool, silk, feathers, and of course fur, should get a free pass when it comes to respect for other designers' creations?  In other words, are knockoffs OK just because they're vegan? 

On the one hand, vegan design pirates might argue that they're addressing a market failure by providing these goods.  Moreover, the claims might continue, there's little effect on creative designers, since diehard animal rights folks wouldn't buy original designs made out of so-called flesh products anyway. 

On the other hand, absent the moral veneer, this argument is little different from that of a design pirate who excuses copying by noting that the knockoffs are less expensive, or come in different colors, or are available in more sizes.  That's fine -- but the same result could be achieved by paying a licensing fee to the original designer and acknowledging the creative effort and expense that went into the successful design in the first place. 

In addition, the argument that no harm results from the copying assumes that there's an absolute divide in the market, and that only vegans buy non-animal products while everyone else will flock to the (usually more expensive) original.  Not likely.  Futhermore, many designers would prefer to retain control over their designs -- maybe that bag wasn't intended to be manufactured in puce.  Or pleather. 

The debate is not an abstract one.  Among the most recent entries in the realm of non-flesh fashion is Natalie Portman's line for Te Casan.  Like other celeb "designer" lines, this one appears to consist mostly of thing that are already in the alleged creator's closet -- or, in Portman's case, shoes that would be in her closet were it not for her commitment to the cause. 

Unlike in other, similar instances of copying,  the nominal designer in question appears to have limited her vegan versions to things that are more or less part of the public domain, even if they've been recently popularized by others.  Yes, there are the elasticized ballet flats, the ankle-strap sandals, and -- featured on Portman herself -- the patent leather Mary Jane pumps:

Natalie Portman for Te Casan

Christian Louboutin Eventa Mary Janes (left) and Natalie Portman for Te Casan Pippa

In other words, even in a jurisdiction where fashion designs were protected, choices like these wouldn't necessarily be illegal, since the styles are fairly common.  Ethical, especially in cases of more literal copying, is a less flattering question.  And creative is not even worth asking.

Our next dilemma:  How will vegan design pirates justify sinking their teeth into designers from their own tribe

January 14, 2008

Project Runway: Pattern Recognition

Were the Project Runway judges on last week's episode blinded by the bedazzling on Season 4 contestant Victorya Hong's winning prom dress (right)?  Jennifer at Jezebel.com, who noted the similarity between Victorya's design and a dress designed by PR Season 3 finalist Mychael (formerly Michael) Knight (left), thinks so. 

Of course, the jeweled neckline also resembles that of Season 3 designers Kayne Gillaspie and Robert Best for Miss USA, Tara Conner (below).  Could it be that Victorya, rather than inadvertently copying Mychael, has cleverly nailed the judges' style?  Or adapted a general trend?  Or perhaps simply tapped into our collective desire to see the same thing over and over again, but with a twist --the pushmipullyu psychological phenomenon explored by Murketing genius Rob Walker in his latest Consumed column? 

Whatever the source of the resemblance between Victorya's and Mychael's dresses, at least the desire of Project Runway viewers for a seasonal copying scandal has been satisfied.  For a walk down memory lane, check out the duplicative moments from Season 3 and Season 2

And in the meantime, sign me Counterfyt Chic. 

January 13, 2008

Happy New Year to Christian Louboutin!

It's official:  Counterfeit Chic readers who have been following the saga of Christian Louboutin's signature red soles will wish to congratulate the maestro on his U.S. trademark, which issued on January 1. 

And speaking of trademarks, will the blue-soled line of CL bridal shoes be next?   

Related posts:   The Manolo's Guide to Holiday (Photo)ShoppingMad(den) About Louboutin, BMW Driving Shoes, Dear M. Louboutin:  Oh...Deer! Wants Your SoleZipping AlongLawyering Up Louboutin, Piracy by Prada?!Seeing Red

January 09, 2008

Green with Envy

When an eco-conscious fashion industry declared green the new black, many designers were inspired to give the message a literal twist.  Spring collections from Lanvin to Versace to Diane von Furstenberg included dresses straight from the Emerald City.  And when Keira Knightley donned a green satin gown for her star turn in Atonement, the green revolution was complete. 

Ever since reading that Keira's dress, a custom creation by costume deigner Jacqueline Durran, had topped a popular poll of the best movie gowns of all time, Counterfeit Chic has been on the lookout for the inevitable knockoff.  It didn't take long.  Faviana not only duplicated the dress, but invited Access Hollywood to observer the process.  The results?  Style #6199, USD $238, coming soon to a prom near you.

Legal?  In the U.S., where Faviana is based, certainly.  In the gown's U.K. home, however, fashion is protected by design rights.  Thus, unless the design's owner has leased it to Faviana, any copies that make their way back to the source will violate the law. 

Should it matter that Keira's dress (or rather, the series of identical dresses necessary for the delicate garment to survive filming) has been presented to the public only on film, and not made available for purchase?  Under the letter of either U.K. or E.U. law, design protection exists whether or not the garment ever becomes an article of commerce.  It's technically up to either the costume designer or the filmmaker, depending on who owns the deisgn, to decide whether anyone else should be able to copy Keira.

But what about the long tradition of film influencing fashion?  Well, even in jurisdictions with design protection, there will be no shortage of long, green dresses this spring -- one can follow Keira's lead even without having access to a close copy.  And given the trend toward stylists launching their own lines, not to mention the ever-increasing movie merchandise tie-ins, it's hard to imagine non-U.S. costume deisgners who already have protection giving it up.  We're more likely to see authorized copies made available in conjunction with popular films than any kind of legal exception for turning celluloid fantasies into silken realities. 

As for me, while Keira's gown is lovely, I'll be holding out for pretty much anything Audrey Hepburn ever wore on camera.  (Thank you, M. Givenchy!) 

January 08, 2008

With Gently Smiling Jaws

Did you ever set out to go shopping for a polo shirt and accidentally wind up at the dentist?  No?  That's what I thought -- and that's what a U.K. court concluded in determining that the logo of a dental practice did not create a likelihood of confusion with respect to Lacoste's famous crocodile.

Click here for the opinion, which includes such gems as the following:

I am not convinced that the average consumer would want to share the characteristics of reptiles but to the extent that they are known for having many functional, perhaps even efficient, teeth, the use of a reptile has what may be considered desirable associations with dental services.

But why would an apparel giant bother to sue a bunch of dentists?  Well, with all due respect to our friends across the pond, these are British teeth we're talking about.  Enough said.

January 06, 2008

Out of Africa

Fashion designers make no secret of ransacking the world's closets in search of inspiration.   The world, however, isn't always thrilled to see someone else in its favorite dresses.

Last month the Independent reported that British designer Matthew Williamson had provoked the ire of some Ethiopians with two Spring 2008 designs that resemble traditional dresses.  In the words of Abdurazak Omer of the Intellectual Property Office in Addis Ababa:

We are very unhappy with the actions of Mr. Williamson.  These are the dresses of our mothers and grandmothers. They symbolise our identity, faith and national pride. Nobody has the right to claim these designs as their own.

Photos via Sassybella.com

Williamson, whose colorful designs appear under the Pucci label as well as his own, has frequently turned to India and more recently to Native American designs in his collections.  In response to the controversy, a spokeperson noted:

In presenting his spring/summer 2008 collection Matthew Williamson strived to gain recognition and admiration for not only the traditional dress of the Ethiopian people, but also other African communities whose beautiful traditional techniques are also evident in the show. 

I've argued elsewhere -- and as recently as yesterday at a panel chaired by Prof. Sonia Kayal at the AALS annual conference -- that attribution to a source community is often sufficient to avoid or at least mitigate charges of unauthorized cultural appropriation.  Williamson's statement to the press by proxy is certainly a step in the right direction.  But such acknowlegement is usually more effective if it occurs before the fact, not after.  (In fairness to Williamson, I haven't read his program notes -- but then again, in the excitement over an opening act by Prince, most of the attendees at the show probably didn't read them either.) 

Of course, it never hurts to ensure in advance that specific allusion to traditional designs won't be offensive.   Remember Karl Lagerfeld's inadvertent embroidery of verses from the Koran on a Chanel bustier?  Or Jean-Paul Gaultier's Hasidic-inspired collection?  Not good for public relations in either case. 

Perhaps Williamson will adopt the suggestion of the Independent reporter and show his African-inspired designs on African models next time.  Or even donate a portion of his profits to Ethiopian designers, an idea that would no doubt please Prof. K.J. Greene, who has argued for reparations to correct past instances of uncompensated copying of African-American music. 

But one thing's for sure:  Williamson won't be seeking protection for his own designs from the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office any time soon.

January 03, 2008

Parody Panties

BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow certainly found an interesting souvenir on his trip to Shanghai: 

But does calling the panties a parody make it so? 

Not necessarily.  Painting the word "fake" on a counterfeit handbag -- or a real one, for that matter -- can be construed as cultural commentary, given the prominence of the great fake debate.  Printing the word "parody" on Mickey Mouse panties doesn't seem to be commenting on much of anything, since discussion surrounding trademark infringement rarely involves cartoon undergarments.  Moreover, the target customer for girls' briefs in China (presumably not Mr. Doctorow, but one never knows) may not read much English or understand the word "parody" -- but Mickey himself needs no translation.

Perhaps in another context the panties could be considered a commentary on the famous mouse's squeaky-clean image.  Then again, Disney seems to have no objection to slapping authorized versions of its characters' smiling visages on fans' bottoms.

At the end of the day, the Mickey knickers are just another twist on the disclaimer myth:  Hmmm, copying is illegal, but parodies that involve some copying are legal, so maybe if I label my copy a parody, I'll get away with it....at least until Disney launches a retaliatory panty raid. 

Nice try.

Many thanks to Counterfeit Chic reader Rory Solomon for the tip!

January 01, 2008

Happy 2008!


Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- that is all

            Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.