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Inspiration v. Imitation: When is the Line Crossed?

By Kristin Grant [November 16th, 2011] 

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For years, many if not all, designers have been developing their collections based on other art works from which they were inspired. We see examples of this in Rachel Zoe’s Spring 2012 collection, which was inspired by Brigette Bardot in the 60s in the South of France, and Mahcesa’s Spring 2012 collection, which was inspired by an IIya Repin painting of an underwater world. Artists have been pulling elements from their surroundings for centuries, in hopes of creating their next masterpiece. At what point does an artist/designer pull too much from that thing which inspired them that their work is no longer deemed inspired by but rather an outright imitation. <Read more>

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“Keeping Up With the KopyKats”: Is Imitation the Highest Form of Flattery?

By Melanie Perez [October 10th, 2011] 

Botkier

Monica Botkier certainly does not agree. As previously noted, Botkier, the contemporary womenswear brand that was launched in 2004, has filed a cease and desist letter against Sears Holding Co., the major retailer of Kardashian Kollection. Monica Botkier, the handbag designer for the brand, is alleging that the particular bag in question- the Kardashian’s leopard print faux leather purse with slanted pockets and draw string sides, (pictured right), is a knock off of her own “Trigger Clyde” satchel which debuted in Fall 2009, (pictured left).

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Botkier Battles for her Bag

By Jennifer Williams [September 22nd, 2011] 

Copyright www.kmart.com

Monica Botkier has wasted no time in protecting her designs. When she discovered that the Kardashian’s new clothing line, Kardashian Kollection, included a handbag that she thinks looks nearly identical to Botkier’s ‘Clyde’ handbag, she issued a cease and desist letter. Sears, the department store that exclusively carries the Kardashian’s line, promptly removed the bag in question from its website.

Botkier’s ‘Clyde’ handbag is designed with a combination of fine leather, stitching, and subtle additions that allegedly make the bag distinctive. The particular additions made to the ‘Clyde’ handbag are the slanted zippers and drawstring ties on the side, which contribute to the bags shape. Curiously enough, these same additions of slanted zippers and drawstring ties are found on the Kardashian’s leopard print handbag. According to CounterfeitChic, the distinctive shape of Botkeir’s bag is likely to ‘add up to trade dress protection.’

In order for Botkier to succeed in a trade dress claim, she must be able to show that the Kardashian’s bag has copied the elements of the ‘Clyde’ bag which are nonfunctional.  Botkier must also show that these elements are recognized by the public as belonging to the ‘Clyde’ bag. Botkier’s stand against Sears and the Kardashian’s handbag, is representative of the struggle many designers face, especially when it comes to handbags. Botkier is one of many designers that seeks protection of her designs in an effort to prevent department stores from selling a similar product at a much lower cost.

 

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Quiz Your Knockoff Knowledge

By Danielle Turturo [February 16th, 2011] 

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With Fashion Week in full swing in New York, I want to remind everyone to watch out for vendors trying to sell knockoffs on the streets. While you may have just seen that bag or hat on the runway, chances are it is not also for sale for $300.00, less right outside the door. Take this fun quiz and make sure that you can spot the knockoff.

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Counterfeit Crackdown

By Lawrence Winegrad [February 9th, 2011] 

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Recently, in Manila, Philippines, Rhona Vergara, Senior Partner of the Vergara Mamangun Jamero Gonzales (VMJG) said “in coordination with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, fake Louis Vuitton goods were removed from the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan.” Vergara is amongst the retained counsel of LV in the Philippines to try and stop the sale of counterfeit LV products. A noted 1.2 billion Philippine peso (roughly $27 million) worth of fake LV products and bags were destroyed.

Italy recently confiscated 9 million of counterfeited watches and bracelets in the Palermo, Sicily. The items were counterfeiting famous designers such as Louis Vuitton and D&G. Many Hello Kitty counterfeited health-threatening goods for kids were also seized. A criminal complaint has been filed against the shop owner.

Also, in Friuli, Italy, over 250 million items coming from China with the words “Made in Italy” were seized. The Italian PTO report can be found here.

In a city in Michigan, Clinton Township police found and confiscated 21 boxes of counterfeited jewelry, purses, perfume, and shoes. Prada, Gucci, and Coach were among the fake brands found.

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Birkin Backlash

By Danielle Turturo [February 8th, 2011] 

Thursday Friday Together Hermes Birkin Canvas Tote Bag

To give an update of Stephanie’s blog about the “Together Bag,” according to Racked.com, Hermes got wind of their venture and is now suing the company, “Thursday Friday.” The lawsuit is based on a trademark infringement claim.

While the idea seems practical, and kind of humorous, Hermes isn’t laughing. They believe Thursday Friday is “riding on their reputation” and “confusing, misleading, and deceiving the public.” I agree with Stephanie, that there appears to be no outright trademark infringement, being that the “infringing bag” does not have the Birkin trademark on it.

However, most multimillion, luxury brand companies sue on every big and small infringement case, no matter how laughable. This is done in order to scare away other possible infringers and let the world know that they are in control and plan on protecting their trademark. What do you think the outcome will be?

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Web of Fakes

By Laura Levin [October 29th, 2010] 

Made in Guangzhou (Reuters)

I wanted to share with everyone a Reuters article published this past Tuesday.  In Faked in China: Inside the Pirates’ Web, authors Doug Palmer and Melanie Lee trace the origins of a counterfeit “Louis Vuitton” handbag ordered via the Internet.

The authors trace the bag’s roots to Guangzhou China, highlight the leatherworking industry in nearby Shiling and even speak to counterfeit wholesalers in the area.  This article is a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it.

Before signing out, I want to point out, as a follow up to my post earlier this week about the prevalence of counterfeits online, one quote in the article from John Morton, assistant secretary in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  He says: “The Internet has just completely changed the face of the problem, made it more complicated and more pervasive…Whole industries now have been attacked, not from the street, but from the Internet.”

Also, take a look at the comments below the article.  They contain an interesting debate on the reasons for the existence counterfeits and who is to blame.

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Take Off My Trademark!

By Danielle Turturo [October 26th, 2010] 

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A commercial for Jersey Shore came on last night and my roommates and I got to talking about Snooki and her drunk antics. I shared with them a post from this summer where it explains that Snooki’s luxury handbag collection, was being stocked by rival competitors. The brands were sending Snooki their rival’s bag in order to tarnish the other company’s reputation! I began to think about what control, if any, designers have on who can sport their trademark? I know that everyday people, like me and you, cannot be told what to wear or not wear. But what about celebs like Snooki? Can Gucci call up Snooki and tell her to stop wearing their bag? My answer came late last thursday night (10/21/10), while watching Chelsea Lately, and her guest, Jenny McCarthy.

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Strategic Secret Shoppers Hit Dubai

By Lindsey Harriman [October 25th, 2010] 

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In the U.S. it is not uncommon for secret shoppers to be hired by retailers to provide intelligence about their stores, including effectiveness of employees and customer interactions.  In Dubai, they are using them for a different reason, to combat the sale of counterfeit goods.

The secret shoppers are actually investigators part of the United Trademark and Patents Services, an anti-counterfeiting organization used by luxury companies to provide brand enforcement in the UAE.  As many as forty investigators are part of the operation at a time.  They pose as tourists and try to gain information from counterfeit vendors as to where their counterfeit storage facilities are located, containing the bulk of inventory.  If there is usable information gained from the investigation, it is then passed on to the Police Anti-Economic Crime Department. They then start their own investigation and if the information proves to be correct, they raid the location. Years ago vendors in Dubai displayed the counterfeit goods freely, according to Imad Nazmi el Badawi, the United Trademarks director.  But now they are concealed in hidden back rooms (a practice also frequently used by counterfeit vendors on Canal Street, in New York City).

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Counterfeiters Get Crafty

By Laura Levin [October 25th, 2010] 

A random sampling

Long gone are the days of counterfeit sales taking place on Canal Street alone.  A quick Google search and a world of fake bags is yours for the taking.

Luxury good manufacturers are all too familiar with the practice of buying counterfeits online and commit teams of lawyers and interns to taking down these sites.  In response, the counterfeiters are getting crafty.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Flickr.com, it is a website that allows its users to upload photos into online albums.  Same idea as Webshots or the photos feature of Facebook.  Flickr allows you to conduct keyword searches and it returns images that match your search.  Head over to Flick, try a simple search for your choice luxury brand along with the word “replica” and see what you get.  The results are astounding.  Hundreds and hundreds of images of counterfeit bags up for sale. <Read more>

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