November 2009 Archives

Are you Shoptimistic?

shoptimism.jpgLee Eisenberg is.  And now the former Esquire editor-in-chief and Land's End creative director has written a new book,  Shoptimism, to explore how we're sold products, why we buy them, and ultimately -- in the words of the subtitle -- Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What.

Interestingly, even in the depths of a recession as our buying behavior has changed forever (or at least we've vowed that it has), Lee isn't rushing to condemn consumerism.  Instead, he's more interested in the "is" than the "ought," and he's done everything from becoming a Target employee (briefly) to researching the neuroscience of shopping in his quest to explain both the sell and the buy.  In the tradition of insightful books like Rob Walker's Buying In and Paco Underhill's Why We Buy, Lee holds up a magnifying mirror to his readers while we shop -- and ultimately reassures us that we don't look fat in that.    

And yes, there's even a descent into the world of counterfeit goods, with your favorite law prof playing Virgil to Lee's Dante for a visit to Canal Street.  (In chapter 15 -- not that you should read that bit first!)

Has Colbie Caillat plunged into shark-infested waters with the "Fallin' For You" video from her Breakthrough album?  Watch the video here, or just check out the image below.  There's something awfully familiar about that surfboard...

Colbie_Caillat_video_1.jpg...or is there?  It's not quite the Louis Vuitton toile, and the initials are "JN" rather than "LV."  In the context of the video, it's just the sort of obvious fake that the comically less-than-appealing guy who's not Colbie's type -- but whom she's falling for anyway -- might own. 

We've all seen imitation goods so poorly rendered that they wouldn't fool a myopic Martian on a dark night.  And there must be a market out there beyond mere video fiction, or LV look-alikes wouldn't keep showing up on shady street corners and in dark corners of the internet, next to the "Prado" and "Channel" bags.  But why would any self-respecting counterfeiter turn out such bad fakes?

It turns out there's method to the madness.  In theory, these inept imitations could allow a manufacturer/importer/seller to avoid liability under the rationale that there's no likelihood of consumer confusion.  In practice, however, courts don't like apparent bad actors.  Take a look at the evidence from a case decided last year, Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Ly USA, Inc. et al.:

LV_v_Ly_10-15-08.JPGNot even close.  But to say that the district court didn't buy the "Ly" would be an understatement; the total judgment in favor of LV, including attorney's fees, totaled over $3.5 million. (Appeal pending.) 

So, Colbie, a word of advice:  Don't take the plunge.  He's not worth it!