This Boek's a Blog

Michel Rorai (Novagraaf) has drawn the IPKat's attention to the existence of a Dutch IP weblog, Intellectuele eigendom: actualiteiten en commentaren (Boek9 is the new IP code that has apparently been some 25 years in the making, while the other bit means "Intellectual property: news and comment"). Michel edits together with Piter de Weerd. So, for any of you who want (i) to know what's going on in the Netherlands and (ii) improve your colloquial Dutch, this is just the site to visit. The blog is archived back to November 2004, for good measure.

Dedicated followers of fashion

Miri Frankel just keeps sending the IPKat more goodies. This again is from the New York Times of 30 March 2006. Entitled "O.K., Knockoffs, This Is War", by Eric Wilson, the piece reads (in material part):

"For readers of Marie Claire, one of its most popular monthly features is Splurge vs. Steal, a column that shows an expensive runway look next to a knockoff costing a fraction of the price. But within the fashion trade the magazine column is roundly disliked, at least by designers whose work is included under the Splurge heading. [...]

Lesley Jane Seymour, the editor in chief of Marie Claire, which has included designer clones in Splurge vs. Steal by Banana Republic, Steve Madden and American Eagle Outfitters, said shoppers understand — and generally approve — how fashion offers them expensive runway originals alongside lower-price versions of the same styles.

But those inexpensive copies could be history if the Council of Fashion Designers of America has its way in a new anti-copying campaign in Washington. Designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez and Zac Posen have been journeying there to lobby for copyright protections like those governing books, music and other creative arts. Mr. Posen was in Washington on Tuesday with Steven Kolb, the executive director of the council, who said a bill could be introduced in Congress as early as today by Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.


Copyright law protects a creator of original material — like a songwriter or screenwriter — for her life plus 70 years. But clothing is not protected. In 1998 Representative Howard Coble, a Republican from North Carolina, introduced a revision to the copyright law that classified boat hulls as a design protected for 10 years. Citing the boat hull statute, fashion designers are asking for similar protection for clothing designs for three years.

Hypothetically that would mean that Allen B. Schwartz, the owner and designer of ABS, the leading brand in the $300 million business of Oscar knockoffs, would be restricted to selling copies of the embroidered beige Elie Saab gown worn by Halle Berry in 2003, not the latest Vera Wang yellow butterfly ruffles for Michelle Williams.

"That is the most ridiculous thing," Mr. Schwartz said. "There is no such thing as an original design. All these designers are getting their inspiration from things that were done before. To me a spaghetti strap is a spaghetti strap, and a cowl neck is a cowl neck." [...]

Designers say the high price of fashion is justified by the time and effort they spend researching fabrics, ideas and techniques. In their view it is unfair for people like Mr. Schwartz to profit from their work without a similar investment.


Ms. Seymour of Marie Claire said there is room in stores for both originals and knockoffs. "If you go into any department store, you can take the elevator to one floor and see the designer look and then take the elevator to the next floor and see the interpreted look," she said. "It's like when you go to the Shop & Stop, you have the real Raisin Bran and then the generic raisin bran. Both have their buyers. Neither one has put the other out of business."

[...] Although designers have occasionally pursued cases of design piracy in court, only the most egregious cases have been successful. In 1980 a federal appellate court held that a pair of belt buckles by the accessories designer Barry Kieselstein-Cord were not ordinary buckles but had reached the level of creative art. (A dissenting judge argued, "Innovations of form are inseparable from the more important function they serve — helping to keep the tops of trousers at waist level".)".

The article cites the position in Europe, where both registered and unregistered design rights may come to the aid of designers whose original works have been imitated. The IPKat says, the main problem is not the absence of rights but the cost and effectiveness of enforcing them, particularly where fashion is fickle, styles float in and out of fashion, original designers have no contingency budget for what might turn out to be protracted litigation and the likely success of infringement litigation may be hard to predict. Merpel says, whether the rights turn out to be useful or not isn't the question: what matters is that creators are entitled to the fruits of their intellectual creation as a point of principle.

More on Splurge vs Steal here and here
Dedicated followers of fashion here

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that it's the "splurge" designers who are upset. In the context of design rights in the UK/EU, perhaps it should be the "steal" designers who have more grounds for annoyance with the magazines for blowing the gaffe. This raises the spectre of Top Shop's lawyers firing off letters to women's magazines insisting that their client's garments create a "substantially different overall impression" from the designer garment with which they have been linked. ;-)


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