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August 31, 2006

Counterfeit Coffee Break 3

Ah, Friday!  Time for another counterfeit coffee break -- this time, from 1921.  The message?  "Avoid imitations."

Cafe Martin print (1921)

Or, for those who prefer their caffeine in a slightly sweeter form (1895):

Chocolat Menier poster magnet (1895)

It would appear that the "admirers" of Starbucks are following a long tradition

August 30, 2006

Knockoff News 30

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

BITTEN BY A BUG IN INTERNET EXPLORER:  Readers, some buried code in this week's Knockoff News caused a formatting problem on this page for Microsoft IE users.  As a quick fix, I've just moved the rest of the post to below the jump.  To read this week's Knockoff News -- and an explanation of the photo -- please click the link below the picture.  Thanks!

And finally, why should copyright and trademark lawyers have all the fun?  A look at patentable technofashion from Philips, which has been weaving LEDs into fibres.  The result:  clothing that can light up at the flick of a switch.  In terms of fashion's future, technology may be where it's @:

August 29, 2006

Fake Film Fest

In A New Kind of Love (1963)probably Paul Newman's worst film ever, his real-life wife Joanne Woodward plays a notorious fashion design pirate with a photographic memory. After an excruciating couple of hours, she forgettably finds love in Paris -- but her scenes as a knockoff artist are definitely cultural artifacts worth viewing!


The idea for Woodward's knockoff artist character was presumably ripped right from the headlines, since in the late 1950s and early 1960s the fashion industry was engaged in one of its periodic quests for legislative protection. 

August 28, 2006

Off Target

Mega-retailer Target has generated quite a bit of press coverage for its fashionable deals with well-known designers like Isaac Mizrahi, as well as with talented emerging designers.  At the same time, however, it seems to be not-so-quietly copying others. 

Check out this full-page ad from Sunday's New York Times T Style Magazine section for the Xhilaration (a Target trademark) Hobo in plum ($18.99):


And then the Ananas "Sadie" original (which also comes in -- you guessed it -- plum):

Apart from the material used for the rings (Target's are metal, Ananas' are wood), the two designs appear identical, right down to the "secret" outside pocket.  

Of course, Ananas is no stranger to being copied -- but I doubt that the company expected to be Targeted so publicly.

August 27, 2006

Counterfeit Coffee Break 2

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  My office is set up, my syllabi and lecture notes are ready, I've double-checked to make sure that the bookstore ordered the right books, and I even know my class schedule (I think). 

All of which means that it's time for a counterfeit coffee break. 

From thoughtful reader Nicola Searle comes the Iranian "Star Box Coffee:"

In China, Starbucks actually won a trademark case against another imitator, the Shanghai Xingbake Coffee Shop:

In Hong Kong, communism and commerce make for a memorable blend (or as photographer Janelbot put it, "Maobucks?"):

While in Taiwan, it's fit for a king:

Japan offers a variety of caffeinated options, all suspiciously familiar:

But in Vietnam, just hold the cream and make it "Starblack":

In Thailand, counterfeit coffee has a French flavor:

Then again, there are those who prefer to make a more direct statement:

Or have simply had a bit too much caffeine:

August 25, 2006

Project Publicity

Several Project Runway stars, including supermodel Heidi Klum, Parsons Professor Tim Gunn, and Elle Fashion Director Nina Garcia, appeared on Larry King Live this evening.  Although the camera couldn't take its eye off Heidi, Nina had the most interesting quote of the evening -- at least as far as the innovation v. imitation question is concerned.  When asked what she liked about the Season 1 winner, Nina answered:

He doesn't borrow any ideas.  Everything you see is Jay McCarroll, 100 percent.

Sadly, the show ended before the judges were asked to comment on Larry's signature suspenders.  Then again, the 80s are back in fashion. 

August 24, 2006

Bare, Heaving Chest

Ahem.  Now that I have your attention....

Tattoos have gone mainstream, shedding much of their tough or subversive image -- but "preppy tattoo" still seems like an oxymoron.  Until you see the folllowing, that is:

Apparently Peter McBride's Polo tattoo (which makes me think somewhat disturbingly of what would happen if one were wearing a Polo during a nuclear attack and the material were to fuse with the underlying skin) is part of a trend toward corporate logos as body art.  Sure, a Harley-Davidson tattoo is practically a cliche, but few people have enough brand loyalty to inscribe our favorite logos on our skin.  Or so I thought.

But is my Georgetown Law student David Barzelay, who kindly sent the link and has a bright future in intellectual property law, correct when he says, "This guy's chest is a big, sad, shaved, and heaving violation of the Lanham Act"?  Or is this fair use of the trademark in the form of artistic expression?  And does it make a difference whether we're considering the actions of the tattoo artist (selling the image and its application) or the action of the tattooee (presumably just displaying the mark in an expressive fashion -- unless he's in another line of, er, sales)?  (Note to the Ralph Lauren empire:  Discreetly tattooed, clean-cut gigolos are probably NOT a good fit with overall brand image.)  In order to determine the likelihood of consumer confusion here, we may need to ask a few questions.  Unless they fall into the category of "too much information."

Either way, this is an interesting example of a broader cultural phenomenon.  Well-known trademarks are part of our modern language, and their significance stems not only from the efforts of the trademark owner but also from the meanings developed or imparted by consumers.  In a branded world, trademarks are source indicators for goods or services – and so much more. 

P.S.  For an earlier post on tattoos – this one on their copyrightability – and an interesting law review reference, click here

August 23, 2006

Congratulations to Fashiontribes!

The fabulous EIC of Fashiontribes.com, Lesley Scott, has relaunched the magazine this week -- with contributions from a few friends.  Check out the Global Chic "School of Fashion" feature, with contributions from fashionable fellow tribespeople Omiru, The Manolo, Bagtrends, Stylehive ... and your own Counterfeit Chic. 

Would that all journal articles could be so stylishly succinct! 


August 22, 2006

Knockoff News 29

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

And for those of you still celebrating Tiger Woods' 12th major title, or just enjoying life on the links:

Tigger Woods

August 21, 2006

MaXXXimum Confusion

Some defendants are accused of counterfeiting clothes, others are accused of counterfeiting their absence.

From the same federal district court in Florida that brought you Hooters v. Winghouse comes a lawsuit by laddie magazine Maxim against the unaffiliated Maxxim Men's Club and Steakhouse.  Typical trademark litigation to be sure, but the claim that the magazine's trademark and Dennis Publishing's reputation have been harmed by association with an establishment in which "female employees perform lewd and sexually explicit dances" strains credulity.  Confused?  Check out Maxim magazine's online "Girls of Maxim" page, which includes more than a few pole-worthy poses.

The real story lies in not only in the newsclip by WWD, but in the details reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.  Apparently Dennis Publishing has pending trademark registrations for restaurants (including Maxim Steakhouse), nightclubs, and entertainment service (including Club Maxim).  A profit maximization strategy indeed -- though I suspect that Maxim Stripper has little to fear, for now. 

August 19, 2006

From Russia with Love

A warm welcome to Counterfeit Chic's Russian readers, and many thanks to Gazeta.ru for the nice mention! 

An article on "Fashionable Blogomania" describes some favorite fashion websites (you'll recognize some familiar names in Roman characters!), and concludes with an interesting observation about blogging and its relationship to the way fashion itself exists as an ongoing conversation between the street and the runway (translation courtesy of my multitalented and most esteemed colleague, spouse, and web designer):

Why do they do it?  All bloggers have the same goal:  to express their own opinion.  An opinion, even of a critic who is not a professional, is significant -- a consumer votes with her pocketbook.  In the end, style is created for the consumer, and not for advertising pages in thick magazines.  The street reworks and adapts ideas and then, altered beyond recognition, they again return to the runway to inspire a new cycle of changes. 

A most democratic sentiment for a stylish, post-Soviet fashion scene

August 17, 2006

Eye of the Beholder

As the Emmy-nominated television show Weeds returns for its second season, Counterfeit Chic takes a look back at the first episode of the series.  The star of this clip is not actress Mary-Louise Parker as a pot-dealing widowed mother of two, but rather her lime green handbag.  It's a designer Rorschach blot, revealing more about the characters looking at the bag than the bag itself. 


August 16, 2006

Pssst! Want to Buy a Watch?

If you buy a "Swiss" watch on the street, chances are it's either a stolen design or stolen goods.  But would you be equally suspicious of a watch offered for sale at a lavish private party?

According to a link from Dram Man, an information-packed blog by an American working in intellectual property law in South Korea, another American expat has allegedly been distributing his "Swiss" watches through just such exclusive channels.  The Korean police, however, say that the watches distributed by Lee Dong-Jin (a.k.a. Phillip Lee, d.b.a. Vincent & Co.) were actually manufactured in Korea using Chinese components. 

To satisfy the cautious consumer, the watches were apparently accompanied by fake certificates of quality and authenticity; some were even sent on a round-trip journey to Switzerland in order to generate import certificates.  Lee, who denies the allegations, traded on the "exclusivity" of the watches, even putting customers on waiting lists for the "handmade" items. 

Interestingly, the watches were not the usual copies of well-known brands, but were presented instead as something much more rare and known only to the initiated few -- including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and Princess Grace of Monaco.  In other words, Lee is no ordinary trademark counterfeiter.  Instead, he is accused of inventing a little-known luxury brand and fraudulently deceiving customers as to the geographical origin of the goods.

The watches may not be authentic, but Lee's grasp of consumer psychology certainly is. 

P.S.  Dram Man has additional information on the apparent scam here (with another interesting link). 

August 15, 2006

Murketing Questionnaire

Head over to Murketing, Rob Walker's interesting and insightful blog on consumer culture, for a Q&A with your own Counterfeit Chic.  The topic?  An indie commentary on counterfeiting in the form of a Prestigious T-shirt that screams, "Stop Rockin' Fake Shit!" 

Think of it as the equivalent of a lawyer's classic pinstriped suit -- for the court of public opinion. 

Many thanks to Rob for the thought-provoking questions!

Selling "La Dolce Vita"

Today's WWD reports that after several difficult years, the Italian fashion industry is seeing a financial turnaround.  According to Mario Boselli, president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (Italy's CFDA):

Italian designers know that it is not enough to sell fashion and that we must export a way of life -- a concept no one can copy.

And some items may even be wash and wear.

August 14, 2006

Knockoff News 28

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

And finally, a caveat for all of those whose trendy tresses are the result of hair extensions:

Apparently "temple hair," cut off by some Indian women as a Hindu religious sacrifice, is prized by expensively groomed Westerners not only for its length and quality, but also for its spiritual associations.  With the current demand for extensions, however, those luscious locks may not be so divine after all:

But as with anything in fashion, knockoff merchants are waiting in the wings to provide a cheaper version of the masses who want to copy them.  Just like fake Fendi or Chloe bags, temple hair merchants have to fight a flurry of Indian hair suppliers desperate to break into the market for hair extensions.  Now, up to 80 out of every 100 locks of human hair comes from this black market.

Shri E.V.K.S. Elangovan, an Indian trade minister, worries about the popularity of Indian human hair.  "Aside from temple hair, we have no idea where the rest comes from," he says.  "In many cases we fear women are being exploited." 

August weather, fashion's mod mood, unethical extensions ... time to bring back the pixie cut?

August 13, 2006

Knocked Off or Knocked Up?

When is a knockoff merely an inferior copy of the original and when is it something more?

Ever since writing about Michael Kors' upscale version of the ubiquitous Jack Rogers "Navajo" sandal, I've been thinking about the relationship between authenticity and quality in the realm of fashion.  (Of course it's not at all clear that the "Navajo" sandals are actually Native American, but that's another kind of authenticity -- part of the subject matter of my book, in fact.) 

When experts give advice about distinguishing real from fake, one of the key elements is usually quality.  Loose stitching, crooked seams, poorly attached tags?  Probably fake. 

But what about luxury copies -- or more often interpretations -- of mass market products?  Check out the classic Bean Boots by L.L. Bean (below, left), going toe-to-toe with Manolo Blahnik's well-heeled 1994 version:

Both are celebrated as examples of fine style and craftsmanship, but the Manolo is a deliberate (and far more expensive) copy, albeit a transformative copy.  And that's only one case:  both Blahnik and Norma Kamali before him have created high-heeled versions of the iconic black-and-white Chuck Taylors, for example. 

So how is a luxe reinterpretation different from a Canal Street counterfeit?  In the case of the Manolo boot above, the designer isn't trying to fool anyone, either with the design or with a fake label.  The referent is obviously L.L. Bean, but the transformative details -- high heel, pointed toe, leather in place of rubber -- are among Blahnik's own signatures.  In addition, the two styles retail at quite different price points and presumably serve different functions, though one might imagine an eccentric matron pruning roses in her Manolos.  In the end, the high-fashion version is an homage to the original and to the timeless New England style that it represents, as well as a clever visual pun.

Ah, but is the luxury version legal?  Under current U.S. law, copying a design is not generally actionable, and the example above isn't even an exact copy.  End of story?  Not necessarily.  In theory, L.L. Bean might have claimed that Manolo Blahnik had infringed on its trade dress.  The design of the Bean Boot is, after all, so closely associated with L.L. Bean that it arguably indicates an association with the company (i.e. has developed "secondary meaning").  On the other hand, 90mm heels are not exactly part of L.L. Bean's oeuvre, so the likelihood of consumer confusion is somewhat remote.  Since I don't know of any actual objection by L.L. Bean, or a licensing agreement for that matter --  please let  me know if you've heard otherwise -- we can only speculate about a possible legal outcome.  (Personally, I hope that the nice folks up in Maine had a good laugh and registered a boost in sales to fashionisti.)

All of which leaves the world of creative "knockups" pregnant with possibilities, legal or otherwise....

August 12, 2006

Welcome, New York Times Readers!

I woke up this morning to find a lovely review of Counterfeit Chic by Times reporter Dan Mitchell.  (You'll have to sign in, but it's free.) 

Many thanks to Dan, and to all of you who sent me email alerts about the piece! 

UPDATE:  For those of you reading the Times online, here's the graphic from the print version of the newspaper:

August 10, 2006

All that Glitters

Apparently starlets' gowns aren't the only things being knocked off on Oscar night.

The online auction of an Academy Award, expected to sell for more than $100,000, was canceled after the golden boy was determined to be a fake.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds both a copyright and trademark and service marks in the statuette and strictly controls its distribution. 

Although its base was real, the faux Oscar wasn't quite his chiseled self, weighing in at over a pound more than the original.  As if a real actor would dare gain a pound before a major public appearance! 

August 09, 2006

Oxes Gored?

Some lawsuits are fought in court, others in the gossip columns. 

The New York Post's Page Six reports the following today:

Old Navy had better go to battle stations. A Baltimore punk band, Oxes, claims the kitschy clothing chain owned by Gap Inc. ripped off one of its concert fliers to use on a T-shirt sold in Old Navy stores. "This is indefensible," said lawyer Carmen Giordano, who's filing a trademark infringement suit in Manhattan federal court today on behalf of Oxes, who have opened for Cheap Trick and the Breeders. "Old Navy has exploited their hard-edged image. The connection is completely contrary to their fiercely anti-establishment philosophy . . . and sullies their image." Old Navy did not return our call.

Adds Oxes' MySpace page, "Boycott Old Navy (if you feel like it)."  Now there's a battle cry.

Turtles All the Way Down

The trends reproduced by H&M may sometimes veer into the category of knockoffs, but it appears that the Swedish "fast fashion" company has spawned a Korean knockoff of its own:

Thanks to Kian Esquire for posting this picture on Flickr!

August 07, 2006

Knockoff News 27

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

And congratulations to Diane von Furstenberg on her election as CFDA president!  (How nice to have a nonfictional woman president at some level!)

Diane von Furstenberg

August 06, 2006

Not Amused

O muse, o alto ingegno, or m'aiutate;

o mente che scrivesti cio ch'io vidi....*

--Dante Alighieri, Inferno

When the house of Yves Saint Laurent named its latest "it bag" contender the "Muse" (below, $1,295),

YSL Muse

it probably didn't intend to inspire Urban Outfitters to create the Pebbled Bowling Bag (below, $58).

Still, it answers that all-important question:  What's a girl to wear through Dante's nine circles of hell?

*O muses, o high wit, help me now!

o memory that recorded what I saw....

August 04, 2006

An Old-Fashioned Question

In my childhood bedroom, on one of many shelves full of books, rests a copy of An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott, better known as the author of Little Women.  This 1870 novel contains the passage below, in which a group of young women gathers to engage in some charitable sewing and not-so-charitable chatter.  In retrospect, this may have been my first exposure to the knockoff question:

"Hush! Trix has the floor."

"If they spent their wages properly, I should n't mind so much, but they think they must be as fine as anybody, and dress so well that it is hard to tell mistress from maid. Why our cook got a bonnet just like mine (the materials were cheaper, but the effect was the same), and had the impertinence to wear it before my face. I forbid it, and she left, of course, which made papa so cross he would n't give me the camel's hair shawl he promised this year."

"It 's perfectly shameful!" said Miss Perkins, as Trix paused out of breath. "Servants ought to be made to dress like servants, as they do abroad; then we should have no more trouble," observed Miss Perkins, who had just made the grand tour, and had brought home a French maid.

"Perky don't practise as she preaches," whispered Belle to Polly, as Miss P. became absorbed in the chat of her other neighbors. "She pays her chamber girl with old finery; and the other day, when Betsey was out parading in her missis's cast-off purple plush suit, Mr. Curtis thought she was mademoiselle, and bowed to her. He is as blind as a bat, but recognized the dress, and pulled off his hat to it in the most elegant style. Perky adores him, and was mad enough to beat Betsey when she told the story and giggled over it. Betsey is quite as stylish and ever so much prettier than Perky, and she knows it, which is an aggravation."

Alcott, who spent part of her childhood in a utopian social community and became a noted abolitionist and feminist, obviously enjoyed holding social pretensions up to ridicule.  These few paragraphs alone could support an entire lecture:  why would a cook allegedly imitate the style of her employer's daughter?  how did advances in textile production make this possible?  why were European household staff more likely to wear distinctive uniforms than their American counterparts?  what is the role of clothing in constructing social status?

Today, of course, the mistress would be as likely to imitate the maid as vice versa -- fashion trends trickle up from the street as often as down from the haute couture.  In addition, the perspective of the milliner who created the original bonnet might come into play (not that many of us still wear hats on a daily basis, or have chambermaids, for that matter). 

Still, I have to smile when I think about our great-grandmothers gossiping about knockoffs.

August 03, 2006

Project Runway: Reap What You Sew

Keith MichaelMystery revealed!  Project Runway reality show contestant Keith Michael, the subject of intense speculation about a copying scandal, was ousted from the program -- for a different offense.

The rules violation turned out to be not a fashion design sin, but the near occasion of one.  Namely, the possession of a contraband patternmaking book, use of the internet, and sneaking away from the production without permission -- all of which could have given Keith the opportunity to copy his design from an outside source.  As the oracular Tim Gunn explains:

Why are fashion-related books against the rules? They offer references and points of departure that the designers can borrow, thereby compromising the integrity of their designs. Imagine if these books were to be allowed and later we discover that so-and-so’s design for the “X” challenge was a copy of the Alexander McQueen dress on page 184 of “20th Century Fashion Design.” That would present a huge issue.

Tim also took the opportunity to put to rest the earlier rumors about one of Keith's sketchbooks, submitted as part of his application to become a contestant -- and at the same time to draw a distinction between inspiration and copying. 

Although the sketchbook included drawings copied directly from photographs of other desginers' work, the judges were apparently cognizant of this at the outset and assumed that the sketches were just for inspiration.  This is a common practice; indeed, in Tim's words, "Fashion designers have a responsibility to look at the design work around them." 

Just not to copy it. 

August 02, 2006

Baked Fakes

Satisfy your sweet tooth and your IP obsession with this fantastic photoset from "IP Hokusai" on Flickr  -- and then head over to his clever and intelligent blog.  An Italian blogger writing in English under the pseudonym of a Japanese artist?  Love it!  And I think that I have a request for my next birthday.

Grazie per gli immagini!

August 01, 2006

Ms. Scafidi Goes to Washington, Part II

So you watched the video and read the written testimony on H.R. 5055, the "Design Piracy Prohibition Act" -- but where, you asked, is the text of the opening statement?  Right here, as delivered to Congress last week.  Enjoy!  (And yes, it contains a few jabs at opponents' testimony -- some more subtle than others.  But if you come to a hearing with a quote from Chanel but no historical context, or with inaccurate statistics, you should expect a bit of polite correction.  For the record.)