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Saints and Sinners

Claire V Josephine bag USD $95Laura Bradford isn't just aiming for fashionable fame and fortune -- she's on a stylish trajectory to sainthood.  Her line of handbags, Claire V., was conceived on a trip to Cambodia as a way of aiding its impoverished people, and the bags are crafted by survivors of land mine injuries.  More recently, Claire V. has begun a collaboration with widows in Afghanistan to showcase their skilled embroidery.  And on top of all that, 10% of sales go to education and health programs for women and children in Asia. 

The silk bags, which sell for $100 or less, have developed quite a following.  The Josephine, pictured, has appeared on Desperate Housewives -- and among the collections of design pirates as well.  As a local station reported:

Soon after Roanoke based Claire V opened, Laura Bradford answered a call from a friend who'd seen knockoffs of her popular handbags in a national catalog. 

"And there are a lot of bags that make it out onto the street before we ever see a sample of it," says Bradford. 

Since only those Claire V. bags with surface designs (like the Josephine) are eligible for copyrght protection, most of the line is fair game for copyists under U.S. law.  Bradford notes that she "could be out of business if someone copies [her] line within a month or two, and not be able to do anything about it."

But fear not.  Claire V. is based in Roanoke, Virginia, part of the congressional district of Representative Bob Goodlatte, who last year and again in the new Congress introduced a bill that would extend short-term intellectual property protection to fashion designs, including handbags. 

In other words, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (currently H.R. 2033) may not yet be law -- but knocking off a Roanoake designer is like bearding the lion in his den.